Southwest Michigan slates 2018 Chávez awards dinner

Contact: Jeanne Baron

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Southwest Michigan will celebrate the life and work of civil rights leader César E. Chávez Saturday, March 24, during an annual scholarship fundraising dinner that includes the presentation of regional awards and scholarships.

Called "Celebrating the Legacy of César E. Chávez," the 2018 dinner will mark the 12th 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.

This year's program

The 2018 celebration will be held in the Fetzer Center on WMU's Main Campus and begins with a reception at 5 p.m. followed by the dinner and awards program at 5:30 p.m. It also will feature a keynote address by Dr. Juan R. Olivarez, former president of Aquinas College.

Proceeds from the fundraising dinner support seven $2,000 need-based César E. Chávez Committee of Southwest Michigan Scholarships that go to Michigan college or college-bound Hispanic students primarily from Allegan, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.

Reservations for the dinner, which costs $25 for students and $40 for others, are being encouraged by Tuesday, March 20, although attendees also may pay at the door. 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 Lot 72F. For directions to WMU or a campus map, visit

Keynote speaker

Head-and-shoulders photo of Juan R. Olivarez.

Dr. Juan R. Olivarez

Olivarez, past president of Aquinas College and the first Hispanic president of a college or university in Michigan, has dedicated most of professional career to working in education and advocating for a quality educational system by focusing on early childhood education, literacy and equal access to education for all individuals.

He served as the seventh president of Aquinas College from 2011 to 2017 and eighth president of Grand Rapids Community College from 1999 to 2008. In addition, he was a GRCC dean for 20 years; president and CEO of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation for three years; and a teacher, school psychologist and administrator with the Grand Rapids Public Schools system for many years.

Community awards

  • Receiving the Chávez Social Justice Leadership Award is Susan Reed of Kalamazoo, managing attorney at the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center. This award honors individuals or organizations for showing leadership as they support southwest Michigan's Hispanic community.
  • Receiving the Delores Huerta Community Service Award is the Family Health Center of Kalamazoo. This award honors individuals and organizations for demonstrating some of the leadership skills and character traits honed so successfully by Huerta, who co-founded the United Farm Workers Association with Chávez.
  • Receiving the Tri-Community Award is Margarito "Mike" Colegio of Hartford Michigan, who retired from the Van Buren Intermediate School District after working 45 years in education. This award honors individuals for demonstrating community involvement that exemplifies the ideals of justice and equality shown by civil rights and social justice icons Chávez, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy.

Student scholarships

  • Receiving Chávez Committee scholarships are: Isaac Carrizales of Lawton, Lawton High School; Luis Cervantes of Coloma, Watervliet High School; Jessica Cortes of Bangor, Hartford High School; Angela Duran of Sturgis, Sturgis High School; Shayla Robles-Flores of Dowagiac, Decatur High School; Maria Gallegos of Pullman, Bloomingdale High School; and Leslie Gonzalez of Battle Creek, Lakeview High School.
  • The recipient of WMU's Futuros Líderes Endowed Scholarship has yet to be announced. This southwest Michigan Chávez committee honor assists with WMU's diversity and inclusion efforts.
  • The recipients of the Manifold Art Studio Scholarship have yet to be announced. These two $1,000 scholarships are provided for Hispanic students and emerging artists.

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