Southwest Michigan slates 2017 Chávez awards dinner

Contact: Jeanne Baron

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Southwest Michigan will celebrate the life and work of civil rights leader César E. Chávez Saturday, April 1, during an annual scholarship fundraising dinner that includes the presentation of regional awards and scholarships for 2017.

Called "Celebrating the Legacy of César E. Chávez," the dinner will mark the 11th time 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.

Photo of Alex Nogales.

Alex Nogales

This year's event will feature a keynote address by Alex Nogales, president and CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition. Dr. John M. Dunn, WMU president, will be among this year's award recipients.

The 2017 celebration, which will be held at the Fetzer Center on the WMU campus, begins with a reception at 5 p.m. followed by the dinner and awards program at 5:30 p.m. Reservations for the dinner, which costs $25 for students and $40 for others, are being encouraged by Monday, March 20, although attendees also may pay at the door.

Proceeds from the event support seven $2,000 need-based Chávez Scholarships, which go to Michigan college or college-bound students from southwest Michigan.

To make a reservation for the "Celebrating the Legacy" dinner, call (269) 387-4420. For more information, visit or contact WMU's Miguel Ramirez at or (269) 387-4420. Free parking will be available in the Fetzer Center parking lot. For directions to WMU or a campus map, visit

Chávez committee honorees

  • Receiving Chávez Scholarships are Angel Andrade, Bangor High School; Jessica Gonzalez Ayala, Bloomingdale High School; Leonila Hurtado, Hartford High School; Janet Ibarra, Bangor High School; Florencia Perales Marquez, Bloomingdale High School; Sandra Perez, Hartford High School; Sophia Rodas, Bloomingdale High School. Four of these recipients will be attending WMU and three will enroll at Michigan State University.
  • Receiving the Chávez Social Justice Leadership Award is the Van Buren Intermediate School District, a strong supporter of all members of its local community. The district also is noted for its Migrant Education Program, which has been recognized three times by the U.S. Department of Education as an exemplary program.
  • Receiving the Delores Huerta Community Service Award is Dr. Fanny Tabares, a retiree from Kalamazoo who worked with Latinos in Michigan for more than 20 years, first as Hispanic ministry regional coordinator for the Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids and most recently as director of the Office of Hispanic Ministry for the Catholic Diocese of Kalamazoo.
  • Receiving WMU's Futuros Líderes Endowed Scholarship is Richard Wyatt Debeor, a WMU Senior from Lawton, Michigan, majoring in criminal justice. The scholarship accepts ongoing donations and was started by southwest Michigan's Chávez committee.
  • Receiving the Tri-Community Award is John M. Dunn, who will be retiring in July after a decade as WMU president. The award goes to an individual whose community involvement exemplifies the same ideals of justice and equality show by civil rights and social justice icons Chávez, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy.

Keynote speaker Alex Nogales

Nogales was elected president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition in the late '90s and has tirelessly advocated for the Latino community. In his current position, he heads a media advocacy and civil rights organization that works toward the advancement of Latinos, a media that is fair and inclusive of Latinos, and universal, affordable and open access to communications.

Under his leadership, the coalition has filed more than 50 petitions to deny certain broadcasters FCC licenses as well as been involved in boycotts, demonstrations and other media fairness actions.

At present, Nogales is evaluating the diversity performance of the four major television networks and challenging media entities that use hate speech and are viewed as demonizing the Latino immigrant community. He also is increasingly engaging on media and telecommunications policies that impact the Latino community, such as those related to media ownership diversification, broadband deployment and adoption, and network neutrality.

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