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District schools, community members march for justice

SAISD Board members at Chavez MarchMore than 100 students from at least 16 San Antonio ISD campuses, plus district staff and board members participated in the 27th Annual Cesar E. Chavez March for Justice Saturday, March 25. 


Near the front was Lanier JROTC, carrying the colors and helping to represent the 21 lives lost in Uvalde last spring, as the march wove through the West side from J.T. Brackenridge Elementary to Hemisfair Park downtown.


“It was nice to remember them, to represent them,” Lanier junior Joseph Rodriguez said. “It is sad that that happened, so it was nice that we were honoring their memory by representing them in the march.”


Besides the Lanier JROTC, 10 middle school LOTC programs participated in the march as part of their community outreach and service.


“We are always willing to help the San Antonio community,” LOTC coordinator retired Major James King said. “Community service and outreach are part of the LOTC curriculum.”


The Whittier Middle School LOTC program had 27 cadets and two staff members present at the march. 


“We decided to participate because we wanted to show our support for our community and for Cesar Chavez, who was a huge advocate for better wages as well as working conditions,” instructor Staff Sergeant Ralph Moreno said. “Leading up to the march, we had covered a lesson on Cesar Chavez, so the students knew who he was and what he meant to the community.”


Jefferson High School Mexican American Studies instructor Alejandro Johnson said students in his classes could volunteer to march. 


“We first began discussing the March last month during the unit on Mexican Civil Rights,” Johnson said. “We spoke of the importance of Cesar Chavez and the Farm Worker Movement. We transitioned into our Chicano Art unit and the students made posters 'that they would be proud to carry at the Cesar Chavez March.’”


Bonham Academy had 10 elementary and middle school students, four teachers, and several families attend, taking along posters they made in class.


“The Cesar Chavez March has always been an important event for many of our staff and students,” Mexican American Studies teacher Araceli Manriquez said. “The Chicano Movement is a big topic that we learn about and honor the contributions of farm workers and its leaders. Some students that could not go also worked on original posters that we took to the march.”


Herff Elementary instructional coach Tracy Gutierrez marched with the school’s Garden Club.


“The reason that we decided to participate is that in our club we are striving to teach self-sustainability and empowering our students to strive for a better future for ALL people,” Gutierrez said.


Also participating were: Brackenridge High School, Davis Middle School, Highlands High School, Hot Wells Middle School, Japhet Academy, Longfellow Middle School, Mission Academy, Poe Middle School, Rogers Middle School, Tafolla Middle School and Young Men’s Leadership Academy.


The district’s involvement in the Cesar E. Chavez march was a collaborative initiative across several departments to ensure students had an opportunity to engage civically and learn more about the rich culture within their community. District staff organized and coordinated alongside the Cesar E. Chavez Legacy & Educational Foundation to provide students with transportation, meals, and integrated them into the march's programming. 


“Every day we come in to work to serve our students,” Chris Escobar, volunteer and partnership services senior coordinator said. “When the opportunity came to partner with schools and ensure we had SAISD represented at the march, making it a smooth process was our priority. We wanted to give students the opportunity to be a part of this tradition while also keeping them safe, so partnering with SAISD police and academics helped make our presence at the march an impactful one.”


The students noticed. Many said the day was a memorable experience, just watching all the people who gathered to support the cause.


“It was honestly a good indication when I see a lot of people in different groups come together just to celebrate a march,” Lanier sophomore Lastadt Valdez, who carried the United States flag in the color guard, said. “It’s a good feeling when you see your community come together to support.”

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