Lafayette youth organize Cesar Chavez march, service learning day

April 4, 2013

Nizhoni Encina-Serrano, 3, front, holds a sign about social change at the Cesar Chavez march in 2011 at Pioneer Elementary in Lafayette. ( Jeremy Papasso )

Students in Lafayette, from elementary school to high school, are helping with two big community events this month.

On Friday, community members will pay tribute to the legacy of civil rights leader Cesar Chavez during the ninth annual "Seeds of Justice" march and rally. The event is planned by the Lafayette Youth Advisory Committee, Latino Advisory Board and the University of Colorado's Public Achievement program.

Elaina Verveer, an instructor and public achievement director at CU, said the students organizing the events are committed to ensuring that young people know about Chavez.

"They recognize that it's important that their peers have an understanding of civil rights leaders, particularly in a diverse community like Lafayette," she said.

The march begins at 4 p.m. at Pioneer Bilingual Elementary School, on the northeast corner of Baseline and Public roads. The march will proceed south on Public Road before veering east of South Boulder Road to LaMont Does Park. Immediately following the march will be a rally, planned for 4:30 p.m. at LaMont Does Park, and a carnival.

Balkarn Shahi, a senior at Centaurus High and a Lafayette Youth Advisory Committee member, said he was impressed that Chavez dedicated his life to his cause.

"He took it onto himself; he stepped up and said, 'I'll do it,'" he said. "It's important to celebrate what these heroes in our history achieved."

The rally will include student speakers and performances by musicians and spoken-word artists. To begin the rally, students from the Lafayette elementary schools are planning a "flash mob" dance to "Dynamite."

"People should come to watch us because we practiced a lot and a lot," said Pioneer third-grader Elyan Calderon.

Pioneer fourth-grader Gabriela Reyna added that it's important for the community to learn about Chavez.

"He changed a lot of things in the United States," she said. "We want people to remember him."

The carnival is organized by Centaurus High School freshmen in the Public Achievement program. Along with providing fun activities and building community, they plan to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform.

"The students do recognize that Cesar Chavez didn't specifically focus on immigration," Verveer said. "But they believe that there's so much to learn from him on grass-roots community organizing."

The next community event that Lafayette students are organizing is Lafayette's 11th annual "SeLebration" on April 27.

Project YES is hosting the service learning day in conjunction with Global Youth Services Day. Volunteers will help with local projects, including garden cleanup and large-scale mural painting. The theme of this year's event is "serving locally and giving globally," with the arts as the focus.

One of the projects will be sprucing up Kids' Park Lafayette. A group of freshmen at Centaurus are working with students with disabilities at the school to create new signage for the park. The students also are planning interactive activities, a march after the project is complete and an information fair on disability services.

Along with the local focus, Project YES will collect school supplies for a school in Accra, Ghana.

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