Building Young Leaders.

Southwest Airlines continues its proud tradition of giving back and our commitment to always put people first. We strive to support nonprofit organizations in the cities we serve to help provide education and leadership opportunities, build brighter futures and inspire young people. Through our partnership with Cesar Chavez Service Clubs, we are helping build confidence, competence and a sense of community within young people across San Diego County. These students are learning by experience and taking advantage of the many opportunities in front of them. Southwest Airlines is proud to partner with Cesar Chavez Service Clubs and we invite you to learn how their work is changing lives and impacting our community.

In 2000, when the State of California named March 31st Cesar Chavez Day, Carlos and Linda LeGerrette, who had known Cesar Chavez and served within the movement he founded, sought a way to engage young people in the community service that characterized his life. This is how they came to create the Cesar Chavez Service Clubs, a highly successful leadership development and community service program active in several inner-city San Diego area schools.

Cesar Chavez Service Clubs teach students the ten values that Cesar Chavez embodied in his life and work. Chavez Club members, called “Chavistas”, meet weekly at their school to discuss current issues, learn the leadership values of Cesar Chavez and plan service projects to benefit the communities they live in. The Clubs work to inspire students to believe in themselves and to learn through the Club experiences that they can make a lasting difference in our world.

There are currently 37 Chavez Clubs, including 6 book clubs, in the San Diego Unified School District and in Chula Vista schools that are home to an impressive 1,000 Chavistas from 3rd grade through high school who meet on a weekly basis. Many of the Chavistas remain members throughout their elementary, middle and high school years.

The curriculum is based on the ten values Cesar Chavez lived by; Nonviolence, Respect, Sacrifice, Knowledge, Tolerance, Innovation, Help the Most Needy, Teach Someone, Celebrating Culture and Determination (Si Se Puede). The Chavistas meet after school to learn and discuss issues as well as formulate their own opinions. They gain confidence as they begin to understand the power of expressing their opinions, and being listened to. When there are differences of opinions, they agree to disagree but with respect and civility.

Co-founders of the Clubs, Linda and Carlos LeGerrette, worked as volunteers for the United Farm Workers while in college collecting and delivering food and clothing to striking farm workers. They intended to volunteer for one summer with Cesar Chavez, but that summer turned into twelve years. They credit their vow to voluntary poverty, which included working for room and board and 5 dollars a week, as the most incredible, educational, life changing experience of their lives. “In retrospect, we were living the ten values we are now teaching”, Carlos reflected when reminiscing on his time with Chavez.

Working in San Diego’s communities of City Heights and Logan Heights from 2000 to 2007, they built strong relationships with school staff, students and the community discussing and developing ideas of how a service club could benefit everyone involved. In 2008, they incorporated the Clubs into a nonprofit organization they proudly named The Cesar Chavez Service Clubs dedicated to the mission of “inspiring young people to believe in themselves and to know they can make a difference”.

Service projects for this year include a wellness curriculum focused on the health issues associated with sugary drinks which are heavily marketed in the communities, raising funds for St. Jude’s Hospital and victims of natural disasters, collecting food and needed supplies for the homeless as well as neighborhood beautification projects.

‘‘Our hope is that these young Chavistas will continue to live by the values they are learning and that they will become active, participating, problem solving, voting, compassionate, peace-loving adults who recognize, celebrate and embrace their differences and similarities,” said Carlos LeGerrette, Club Co-Founder.

For years, Southwest Airlines has been the LeGerrette’s airline of choice. Cofounder of the Clubs, Linda LeGerrette also shares her excitement about the airline, “We are grateful to be able do the work we love. We never thought things could be better but when they invited us to consider Southwest Airlines the Official Airline of the Clubs, we were ecstatic.”

The partnership with Southwest will play a huge part in providing travel for the annual Chavez Clubs trip to Washington, DC. Each year, 50 middle school Chavistas get the opportunity to experience the history of our nation. The support of Southwest Airlines will ensure that the Clubs can continue to offer this amazing experience for these future leaders.