Cesar Chavez Ceremony
Based on current Contra Costa Health Services’ public health guidance, the Cesar Chavez Ceremony event has been postponed. We will provide an update as it becomes available.
This year’s 27th Annual Cesar E. Chavez Commemorative Celebration theme is Move Our Community Forward – Adelante Con Nuestra Comunidad.
Each year during the ceremony, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors honors a group of students as part of the Youth Hall of Fame Awards.
Keynote Speaker: Mayra Padilla, Ph.D.
Mayra grew up in Richmond and San Pablo and graduated from Richmond High School. Thanks to the support and mentorship through the Metas and Center for Science Excellence program at Contra Costa College (CCC), she completed her bachelor’s degree in applied physics from UC Davis and her doctorate in neuroscience from UC Berkeley. She worked as a neuroscientist at the San Francisco Brain Institute, SRI International, and Sands Research.
As a result of seeing too few Latinx or black scientists, she returned home to take on the role of director for the Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) initiatives at CCC to encourage students of color to pursue careers in STEM. She is now Dean of Institutional Effectiveness and Equity at CCC.
Good Samaritan: Rita Benitez - 12 Grade, Richmond High School, Richmond
Rita is a Richmond High School senior with a strong voice and a caring heart. She volunteers at the school health center which provides medical, dental, and mental health services to students. The degree of caring, time and attention that Rita gives to her peers when sees someone in need is admirable.
In the classroom, she is an advocate for justice and is not afraid to use her strong voice to speak out when she sees a classmate being treated unfairly. She is courageous and comes up with creative solutions to problems, even advocating for a student who was going to be suspended, using the concept of restorative justice.
Rita is a natural leader, someone people can turn to when in need. Having overcome challenges of her own life, her strong and caring spirit is deeply connected to her values and she is living in a way that is aligned with them.
Volunteerism: Ellora Easton - 12th grade, Northgate High School, Walnut Creek
Ellora is committed to using her time, energy, and creativity to improve her community. She recognized a disparity in her school between students who could afford private tutors and those who could not. It motivated her to start a club called Brain Exchange, comprised of a group of students strong in various subjects, who meet weekly to help classmates in need of tutors.
Ellora and a few of her peers started a group at a nearby middle school to empower girls who are of Latina, African American, or low-income. He ability to develop strong respectful relationships with her mentees, leads them to open up and enjoy their time, motivating them to succeed.
Ellora also started a speaker series at her school called Northgate Listens; a local congresswoman and educational leaders came to speak about important topics like inequality in the school system.
Teamwork: Marlen Muñoz - 12th grade, Richmond High School, Richmond
After seeing a commissioner from the City of San Pablo’s Youth Commission give a presentation at her school, Marlen was inspired to become a commissioner herself. She hoped to expand her social skills and learn how to support the community. But she was very shy and it took her several months to build up the courage to attend a meeting. In the two and a half years she has been on the commission, she has blossomed. She has co-facilitated workshops, recruited new youth members and presented to the city council. Her input was key to the recent redesign of the Youth Commission and its goals and she is currently the chair.
Marlen has focused her passion for her community by getting a job with San Pablo’s recreation department, taking on the coordination and implementation of various programs. She also brings her passion to Richmond High School, where she is in the College Is Real program and has become a mentor for Richmond freshmen through their Link Crew program.
Leadership/Civic Engagement: Christiana Aranda - 12th grade Pittsburg High School, Pittsburg
Christiana has used her experience growing up in foster homes to advocate understanding and change in the foster care system. Her involvement in California Youth Connection (CYC) is where her leadership and civic engagement skills have had the opportunity to blossom. CYC is a statewide organization of foster and former foster youth who advocate for improvements in the foster care system through legislative change.
While attending CYC’s Summer Youth Leadership Conference in 2017, Christiana wowed her peers and facilitators with her engagement and contributions to the program including performing a powerful piece of solo slam poetry.Her emotional and intellectual analysis of the foster youth experience provided meaningful insight to those seeking to understand and improve the foster care system
While attending A Day at the Capitol last year, she spoke directly with legislators about a bill promoting a youth centered placement process. Bravely sharing her story, Christiana’s advocacy was integral in passing the bill and will now help other foster youth avoid one of the most traumatic parts of the foster care experience: an unexpected placement change without having a voice in the process.
Resilience: Raven Richardson - 12th grade Pinole Valley High School, Pinole
Raven began his time at Pinole Valley High School as a “safety” transfer, a category made up of students whose behavior is considered troubling and they are sent to a different school for a second chance. Warned that he was a disciplinary problem, the school decided to give him the opportunity to prove he could change. Raven turned his life around and became the successful student that his peers and teachers know him as today. Prone to getting in fights in the past, Raven now diffuses fights and is viewed by his classmates as a gentle giant.
Raven helped lead the football team to its first undefeated season in years. In spite of having to travel on public transit over an hour to school, Raven has made his second chance into a visible success story and an example of what happens when you put your past behind you and work hard toward self-improvement. He has transformed himself from an underperforming student headed down an uncertain path to a student that has made a difference at his school. His academic success has qualified him for four-year universities, any of which will benefit from having him in their community.