Cesar Chavez Drive Dedicated

Marlena Hartz, Portales News-Tribune (NM), Oct. 17

It is the lesson of a lifetime: Si, se puede—yes, we can. Believing this turned a classroom of pre-teens into community heroes.

Evidence of their feat was unveiled on a clear Friday morning—a green street sign, with white letters. It reads Cesar Chavez Drive.

“That’s our work up there,” said Daniel Trujillo, 12, shooting his arm toward the sign, embedded in the ground near a cacti patch.

They had some ups and downs trying to get the name of the street change to honor the legendary migrant labor leader, according to Phillip Martinez, also 12. But the former Bella Vista Elementary sixth graders are victors. After more than a year of lobbying city and school officials, the class, now junior high school students, got the name of a neighborhood street changed from Jefferson to Cesar Chavez.

“We went a long way—for just being kids. Now adults can look up to us,” Martinez said.

Teacher Anne Corsey introduced the students to Cesar Chavez—a Mexican-American labor leader who demanded rights for migrant farm workers after years of picking crops for low wages—because she wanted to give them “someone to look up to.” Corsey, who is relatively new to the education field, spent most her life raising her children at home, but the profession fits well: Students cling to her side; fellow teachers shower her with praise.

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“We didn’t really know what Jefferson did,” said Vernon Hunter, 13, leaning against a neighborhood car underneath the street sign. “We just knew he was a president. Cesar Chavez inspired people who were down.”

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