Chávez-Huerta Student Symposium offers opportunity to learn about legendary activists

On Saturday morning, fourth-grader Alanna Herod sat in her bedroom closely watching the screen of her laptop.

But the student at Helms Elementary School wasn’t watching the typical Saturday morning cartoons. She was listening to Dolores Huerta address the Chávez-Huerta Student Symposium.

Huerta, the legendary activist, spoke at the virtual event from her home in New Mexico. Her message was one of hope and forward thinking, from someone who has been advocating for more than six decades.

“Whose got the power? We’ve got the power. What kind of power? People power,” Huerta said. “Don’t ever think you don’t have a voice, and don’t ever think you can’t make a change.”

The 90-year-old’s words echoed the theme of the event, “The Power of Your Voice.”

Held virtually but hosted by César Chávez High School, the event was organized by students from across the district. This was the inaugural year for the annual event. The symposium opened with Interim Superintendent Dr. Grenita Lathan.

“We are here to honor two very important figures: César Chávez and Dolores Huerta,” Lathan said. “Their legacies of hard work and perseverance continue on in our students today.”

The event continued with a musical performance by students from Chávez High School, Ortiz Middle School, and Lewis Elementary School.

That was followed by a panel with representatives from the Huerta Foundation, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the National Urban League, Sam Houston Math, Science, and Technology Center High School, and North Houston Early College High School. It was moderated by Antonio Hernández of Telemundo and Ángel Luna, a Heights High School student.

Later, the son of César Chávez, Paul Chávez, gave the closing keynote address. He spoke of his father’s insistence that anyone could become an advocate, despite their own struggles or self-doubt.

“Today, as I look back, I can see that every step of the way I wasn’t sure if I could do the job,” Chávez said. “But my dad was persistent. My dad had more confidence in me than I did in myself.”

Several HISD students were also awarded scholarships as a part of a student project competition, which addressed how the message of activism is still relevant today.

Ángel Elizondo, from North Houston Early College High School, and Soloman Konneh, from Jane Long Academy, won in the essay category. Aedan Flores, of Wilson Montessori, and Alejandra Rodríguez, of Kashmere High School, won in the documentary category. Edward Lopez, of East Early College High School, and Helen Shibru, of Jane Long Academy, won in the website category.

At the end of the symposium, the Houston Chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens awarded Dr. Lathan with the Conscience Builder Award. It was to honor her time with HISD, and the work the district has done to create an equitable and fair school district for all students.

Dr. Lathan told the audience—both in person and virtual—that she always aimed to “leave a place better than you received it,” and praised the work of the district to create a leadership team that reflected the diversity of the students they serve.

“That is what America is about. That is what Houston is about. And that is what HISD is about,” Lathan said.