SOLEDAD — Nineteen men and women graduated June 20 from the Farmworker Institute of Education and Leadership Development and EPIC de Cesar Chavez High School Charter during a ceremony at Soledad High School.
“Cesar taught us that in order to make change it was going to take sacrifice and we have to dedicate ourselves,” President David M. Villarino said. “Very similar to the commitment and sacrifice that was made by these graduates in order to obtain their diploma.”
Most of the graduates from the Farmworker Institute of Education and Leadership Development (FIELD) worked while attending school and even started families. They attended classes five days per week for the past 10 months at one of the four EPIC de Cesar Chavez High School Charter school sites in King City, Greenfield, Soledad and Salinas to earn their diploma.
Salinas Valley Adult Education Consortium Director Kristen Arps provided congratulatory words to the graduates and posed questions to them, such as “How can they inspire others?” and “What is next?”
“Once you have asked yourself that question, even if you don’t have an answer yet, I ask you to please reach out to us,” Arps said. “We care about you and are here for you.”
The inspirational speaker for the evening was Aldofo Gonzalez, a recent graduate of California State University Monterey Bay.
Gonzalez was born in Oaxaca, Mexico, and he came to California to have a better life and started working in the fields.
“Once I realized I had to do something different to improve my life,” Gonzalez said. “I enrolled in Salinas Adult School to get my GED and improve my English.”
Gonzalez went from the adult school to Hartnell College. He enrolled in CSUMB in 2018 and graduated in three semesters.
“I strongly encourage you to stay focused in school and to not give up,” Gonzalez added.
Ofelia Mendez, one of the Cesar Chavez graduates, spoke next in Spanish. Mendez was inspired to earn her high school diploma by her husband and daughter and was told to believe in herself.
The keynote speaker for the evening was Jose Luis Alvarado, dean of the College of Education at California State University Monterey Bay.
The graduates turned their tassels and received their diplomas before celebrating the achievement with their families.