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Community gathers for César Chávez event

Hundreds gathered at Hamlin Middle School Thursday for the 17th annual César Chávez celebration, complete with music, poetry, student dance performances and food.

The cafeteria of the school was filled to the brim with parents, students, Springfield district staff and community members who came together to celebrate the life and work of César Chávez – an American farm worker, labor leader and civil rights activist who was committed to justice and non-violence.

Large student drawings and other artwork of Chávez were strewn across the walls of the school, and educational and informational booths were set up for attendees to gather information about local nonprofit organizations such as Downtown Languages. The nonprofit is dedicated to increasing opportunities for immigrants and building respect and understanding across cultures by providing language, literacy and other educational programs.


Other local agencies present at the event included Lane Community College, the Springfield Police Department, Willamalane and more.

Much of the celebration was emceed by two Springfield students who spoke in both Spanish and English. The two young women kicked off the event with a moment of silence for Martin Luther King Jr., who died 51 years ago Thursday.

Students across the district also submitted written essays and artwork as part of a contest after teachers throughout the Springfield district held lessons on Chávez and his work and accomplishments leading up to the event. For the contest, students were asked to submit an essay, video, poster or other form of art using the Chávez quote: “The end of all knowledge should be service to others.

Event organizers presented first, second and third place awards for each grade level at the celebration.

In addition, Silvia Ceja, a family development specialist in the Springfield district was presented with the Springfield Alliance for Equality and Respect (SAfER) Human Rights award, given each year to individuals from Springfield each year to individuals from Springfield who carry forth the legacies of Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chavez, and Eleanor Roosevelt.

SAfER is the Springfield Chaper of Communnity Alliance of Lane County or CALC.


Ceja said she was excited to receive the award. 

"(I'm) tremendously humbled and honored to receive the Cesar Chavez Human Rights Leadership Award," she said. "Thank you to SAfER, all my colleagues, and especially to all the families and students who work so hard to keep the legacy of Cesar alive. ¡Si se Puede!​"

Zhera Greenleaf, who lead the organizing committee said that Ceja has been instrumental in developing and revitalizing various programs in the Springfield district.

“She’s big-hearted and hard-working and has developed some innovative programs in the district,” Greenleaf said.

Thursday’s celebration was coordinated by the SAfER, Springfield Public Schools, Springfield Public Library and Willamalane Parks and Recreation District.

Greenleaf estimated that more than 300 people attended the event.

“What I’ve heard from others is that this way by far the largest attended event,” she said. “It was really well attended and it was great to celebrate with people, offer some nutritious and delicious food and celebrate student achievement, among other things.”