Southwest Michigan slates Chávez dinner, awards program

contact: Jeanne Baron
| WMU News

Samuel Batances will give the keynote address.

KALAMAZOO—Southwest Michigan will celebrate the life and work of civil rights leader César E. Chávez Saturday, March 29, during an annual scholarship fundraising dinner that includes the presentation of three regional awards and one regional scholarship.

Called Celebrating the Legacy of César E. Chávez, the event will be held in the Fetzer Center at Western Michigan University. It begins with a reception at 6 p.m. followed by the dinner at 6:45 p.m. Reservations for the dinner, which costs $40 per person, are being accepted until Monday, March 24.

This is the eighth year that WMU's Division of Multicultural Affairs has joined with the Southwest Michigan César E. Chávez Committee and area businesses to stage a banquet on or around Chávez' March 31 birthday. The event will feature a keynote address and presentation of the Chávez Committee's 2014 awards and scholarships.

Giving the keynote address will be Samuel Betances, Northeastern Illinois University professor emeritus of sociology and senior consultant with Souder, Betances and Associates, a leader in the field of diversity training and consulting.

To make a reservation to attend Celebrating the Legacy of César E. Chávez, call (269) 387-4420.

This year's regional honorees

Photo of Mark Delorey.

WMU's Mark Delorey

The Chávez Committee will be recognizing the recipients of its longstanding Tri-Community Award and two new awards, as well as the recipients of its $1,000 need-based Chávez Scholarship.

Proceeds from the annual dinner go toward that scholarship, which is for Michigan college or college-bound students living in Allegan, Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.

  • Mark Delorey, of Kalamazoo, will receive the Tri-Community Award. Delorey is director of student financial aid and scholarships at WMU and has done considerable work on behalf of homeless students as well as those who have aged out of foster care.

    He co-founded WMU's Seita Scholars program, which with more than 160 enrolled students is believed to be the world's largest higher education initiative for foster youth, and he is the only higher education professional to be given the Distinguished Service and Leadership Award by the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth.
  • Thomas K. Thornburg and Farmworker Legal Services, both of Kalamazoo, will receive the Chávez Social Justice Leadership Award. Thornburg is co-founder and co-managing attorney of Farmworker Legal Services, a nonprofit law firm "of first resort" for Michigan's 95,000 farmworkers and their dependents.

    He is a member and former acting chair of the State of Michigan Interagency Migrant Services Council as well as a member of the Justice Policy Initiative of the State Bar of Michigan, from which he received a Champion of Justice Award in 2012.
  • Alicia Martinez, of Bangor, Mich., will receive the Delores Huerta Community Service Award. Martinez is a recruiter for the Van Buren Intermediate School District's Summer Migrant Program in Lawrence, Mich., and conducts parent workshops for the School Year Parent Advisory Council.

    A former migrant farmworker, she has committed herself to improving access to educational opportunities for migrant children. She works at all hours and on weekends making home visits to support as well as recruit migrant families in labor camps.
  • Receiving the Chávez Scholarship are Luz Maria Hurtado Becerra of South Haven, Mich., a senior at South Haven High School, and Rigoberto Cardoso, of Hartford, Mich., a senior at Hartford High School. Both recipients plan to attend WMU in the fall.

About Samuel Betances

A biracial, bicultural and bilingual citizen of the world, Betances challenges negative mindsets with a balanced and passionate approach combined with his own problem solving methodology and extensive grasp of issues.

He works to help others learn the importance of pulling cultures together as a way of bringing America back to the top in education, business and society in general. As he puts it, "Our mission is to make America stronger, healthier and freer than when we found her."

Betances grew up in the inner city and dropped out of school, yet went on to earn a doctoral degree from Harvard University, work for the U.S. Office of Education and National Institute of Education, and teach for more than 20 years at NIU.

He has been a consultant to such influential leaders as U.S. presidents and Fortune 500 CEOs while providing training to a broad range of governmental, business, higher education and community organizations. His newly released educational book and tape series "Ten Steps to the Head of the Class: A Challenge to Students" has garnered wide acclaim.

For more information about the dinner, contact Miguel Ramirez in WMU's Division of Multicultural Affairs at or (269) 387-4420.