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SANTA ANA : Chavez Kin Break Ground for School

September 04, 1993|JON NALICK

At a sun-drenched site on Cypress Avenue, Cesar Chavez's widow and family plunged shovels into a mound of earth, officially breaking ground Friday for a high school named after the late labor leader.

After the hourlong ceremony, Chavez's son-in-law, David Villarino, praised Santa Ana Unified School District officials for honoring a man who believed strongly in the power of education.

"The irony is that he only went to eighth grade, but he always felt that education was the key to success," said Villarino, 40.

He said he hoped students at the school would remember Chavez's slogan, Si, se puede , which means Yes, it can be done, and apply that motto to themselves.

About 60 people gathered for the ceremony, including Councilman Ted R. Moreno, Supt. Rudy M. Castruita and school district trustees Richard C. Hernandez, Robert W. Balen and Audrey Yamagata-Noji. Twelve of Chavez's family members also attended the event at 2128 S. Cypress Ave., the site of the future Cesar E. Chavez High School.

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

During the ceremony, Castruita and other speakers compared Chavez to civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and former President John F. Kennedy, who affected the lives of not only a small segment of the population, but also the whole nation.

Yamagata-Noji said later that the board chose to name the school after Chavez because he was an excellent leader and role model for students. "Especially in this (largely Latino) community, he is a source of inspiration, respect and honor," she said.

The ceremony included performances by Valley High School folklorico dancers, who wore colorful suits and dresses. Later, Chavez family members etched their initials into a slab of wet cement near the words Chavez H.S. and the day's date.

When completed sometime in fall of 1994, the campus will cover 2.2 acres and contain 17,700 square feet of classroom, library and lab space. The school will be the first in the state to bear Chavez's name, district spokeswoman Diane Thomas said.

The two-story building will surround a landscaped atrium and provide room for as many as 400 students. The $2-million construction cost will be paid by the state. The school is designed to alleviate overcrowding throughout the district, where enrollment has increased by an average of 1,000 students a year since the late 1970s, Thomas said.

With more than 48,000 students, Santa Ana Unified is the largest district in the county and the eighth-largest statewide.

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