Celebrating Chávez: A prescription for success

For Jonny Aldana, success means family guidance.

"I think that parents should support their kids' ideas so that they don't get into gangs," said Aldana, 19. "We need more support on what to do."

The South Medford High School senior is among about 20 young Latino boys and girls who were preparing Friday for an immigrant youth panel discussion, part of the César Chávez Celebration beginning at 6:30 tonight in the Medford Central Library's Large Conference Room, 205 S. Central Ave.

Chávez was a Mexican-American farm worker, labor leader, and civil rights activist who helped found the United Farm Workers union. He was born March 31, 1927, and died April 23, 1993.

In addition to the panel discussion, the program will include speakers, a Voices of Immigrants exhibit, a youth theater performance entitled, "Fight Ignorance, Not Immigrants," and another performance by the Reflexion Latina Dance group. It's sponsored by UNETE Center for Farm Worker Advocacy and the Multicultural Association of Southern Oregon.

The event is open to the public, and is organized by a Latino youth group called Razas Unidas (Races United) that meets twice weekly. The panel participants are originally from Mexico and Guatemala.

Kathy Keesee, community organizer with UNETE, said the panel will be made up of immigrant youth, and they'll talk about their experiences in the Rogue Valley. They'll also talk about what they need from their families, their schools and the community to be successful.

South Medford student Santiago Guerrero, 18, lists some difficulties as not knowing how to obtain money for college or who to turn to for education advice.

Keesee said many Latino youth tell her they don't have anyone to turn to. She hopes the event will help them find the steps toward their own success.

"We often overlook the kids when we're planning projects for them," she said, adding that by including kids in the planning, the programs are more likely to be successful.

Additionally, the students will benefit from public speaking experience.

"I want them to build up their self-confidence," she said.

Keesee said today's event will be preceded by a march from South Medford High School to the Central Library.

For more information, call 245-1625.

Reach reporter Meg Landers at 776-4481 or e-mail mlanders@mailtribune.com.

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