Southwest Michigan slates 2016 Chávez Dinner, awards program

Contact: Jeanne Baron
Photo of Cruz Reynoso.


KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Southwest Michigan will celebrate the life and work of civil rights leader César E. Chávez on Saturday, April 2, during an annual scholarship fundraising dinner that includes the presentation of regional awards and scholarships for 2016.

Proceeds from the annual dinner support $1,500 need-based Chávez Scholarships, which go to Michigan college or college-bound students primarily in Allegan, Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.

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 5 p.m. followed by the dinner at 5:45 p.m. Reservations for the dinner, which costs $25 for students and $40 for others, are now being accepted. Attendees also may pay at the door.

This is the 10th 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 2016 event will feature a keynote address by Cruz Reynoso, a civil rights leader, lawyer and former California Supreme Court judge.

To make a reservation for the "Celebrating the Legacy" dinner, call (269) 387-4420. 

Chávez committee scholarships, awards

All but one of the following honors are bestowed by southwest Michigan's Chávez Committee.

  • Receiving Chávez Scholarships are Margarita Carrillo of Battle Creek, Lakeview High School; Jazmin Cortez of Covert, Covert High School; Annabelle Hernandez of Hartford, Hartford High School; Michelle Morales of Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo Central High School; Yailene Morales of Grand Junction, Bloomingdale High School; Ruben Ocanas of South Haven, South Haven High School; Ismelda Sarco of South Haven, South Haven High School; and Eric Solis of Holland; West Ottawa High School. Carillo, Michelle Morales and Solis will be attending WMU this fall while Cortez and Yailene Morales are considering attending WMU.
  • Receiving the Chávez Social Justice Leadership Award is InterCare Community Health Network, which is based in Bangor. InterCare provides health-care services in traditionally underserved communities and annually serves some 50,000 Michigan patients.
  • The Delores Huerta Community Service Award is not being presented this year.
  • Receiving the Futuros Lideres Scholarship, a WMU honor, is Stefany Tule, a WMU senior from Hartford who is majoring in environmental science and sustainability studies.
  • Receiving the Tri-Community Award is Guillermo Martinez of Kalamazoo. Martinez co-founded the Michigan-style Tex Mex band Los Bandits de Michigan.

Keynote speaker Cruz Reynoso

Reynoso is a professor of law emeritus at the University of California, Davis School of Law and was the inaugural holder of the law school's Boochever and Bird Chair for the Study and Teaching of Freedom and Equality. President Bill Clinton in 2000 awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, for his efforts in extending legal equality.

During his long career, Reynoso held such positions as associate general counsel to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, vice chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and member of the Select Commission on Immigration and Human Rights.

In addition, he was the first Hispanic person to sit on the California Supreme Court, a post he was appointed to in 1982 and served in until 1986. Berkeley filmmaker Abby Ginzberg trained her lens on him in her hour-long documentary, "Cruz Reynoso: Sowing the Seeds of Justice."

For more information, contact WMU's Miguel Ramirez at or (269) 387-4420.

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