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SANTA ANA : Schools to Be Named After Chavez, Villa

April 29, 1993|JON NALICK

The Santa Ana Unified School District Board of Trustees has decided to name a school in honor of Cesar Chavez, who organized the United Farm Workers union, and another after Raymond A. Villa, Santa Ana's first Latino city councilman and an advocate for the poor.

The board voted unanimously Tuesday to honor the Latino leaders. A high school will be named for Chavez and an intermediate school will bear Villa's name.

"What's important here is that you have two individuals who are truly Americans," said Trustee Sal Mendoza. The pair "are of Mexican-American decent, but we must not forget that they are Americans first."

Chavez, who was dedicated to nonviolent protest, is best known for the massive grape boycotts in the 1960s that he staged to dramatize the plight of America's farm workers. Chavez died last week at 66.

Villa, a UCLA graduate who served on the Santa Ana City Council from 1969 to 1973, spearheaded drives to bring anti-poverty programs and bilingual job training to the county. He died at 74 on Nov. 13 of complications of diabetes.

District spokeswoman Diane Thomas said both schools will open within two years. Raymond A. Villa Intermediate School will be at the northeast corner of Grand Avenue and Chestnut Street. Cesar Chavez High School will be at 2128 Cypress Ave.

"We need a school named after these men. They changed out lives, our hopes, and our dreams," Enriqueta Ramos, a Rancho Santiago Community College District trustee, told the board before the vote.

Villa successfully challenged the school district to improve the education of minorities, Ramos said, and Chavez "changed the course of history for farm workers and for us. He was a nonviolent man, a peaceful man."

City Councilman Miguel A. Pulido Jr. told the board that "by naming a school after Ray Villa, you're going to positively impact the lives of many, many children for years to come."

More than 25 people who urged that the board honor the pair burst into applause when the decision to honor the men was reached.

Villa's widow, Ruth, 77, tearfully told the board after the vote: "I'm very happy, I'm very proud, I want to thank you all."

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