SWA Community

Chavistas 1

Whether in the air or on the ground, we believe Community is more than a place – it’s at the Heart of what brings us together. We are proud to invest in partnerships such as The Cesar Chavez Service Club which is providing leadership development programs in public and private schools across San Diego County. Their programs are building confidence, competence, and a sense of community within young people. Southwest Airlines is proud to partner with Cesar Chavez Service Clubs and join forces in inspiring young people to believe in themselves and to know that they can make a difference.

In the summer of 1966, a pair of young college students from San Diego helped deliver food and supplies to striking farmworkers in California’s Central Valley. When Linda and Carlos LeGerrette arrived at the headquarters of the United Farmworkers, they became inspired to stay and volunteer for the entire summer. That summer led to over a decade of service, during which Linda and Carlos came to know and work closely with UFW founders Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta.

In 2001, the Chavez family asked Linda and Carlos to represent them in discussions with state leaders as California established a state holiday celebrating Cesar Chavez. Linda and Carlos felt that the best way they could honor Chavez’s legacy would be to teach his core values to young people.

Two decades later, the nonprofit Cesar Chavez Service Clubs, founded by Linda and Carlos, works annually with more than 400 elementary through high school students in over 20 San Diego public schools. The “Chavistas” (members of the Service Clubs) are guided by core values including non-violence, sacrifice, helping others, creativity, celebrating diversity, and “Si Se Puede” (yes, it can be done).

In recent years, Chavistas have contributed at the local level, including food and clothing drives at their schools and habitat restoration projects in their neighborhoods, as well as at the city-wide policy level. Advocacy by the Chavistas has led to the San Diego Unified School District making mental health education part of the core curriculum, and to the San Diego City Council prioritizing investments in environmental justice communities as part of its Climate Action Plan. Many the first in their families to attend college, Chavistas have earned over $1 million in scholarships as they have gone on to higher education in the Ivy Leagues, at prestigious private and public universities as well as at local community colleges.

Over the next decade, Linda and Carlos hope to see the Chavez Clubs grow in a few ways. They hope to expand the program to more public schools throughout San Diego and throughout California. They also hope to begin reaching students as early as kindergarten to let them know that their voice matters and that they can make a difference in the world. And they hope to turn over leadership of the organization to a new generation as passionate and committed as they are. Currently several of the staff of the Chavez Clubs are themselves former Chavistas, who began with the program in elementary school.

Southwest Airlines has been a core supporter and partner of the Chavez Clubs for many years. Every Spring, a group of high school and middle school Chavistas make a trip to Washington, DC to learn firsthand about our nation’s history. For most of the Chavistas, this is their first time on a plane trip, made possible by travel vouchers donated by Southwest Airlines. We would not be surprised if in the future, the same Chavistas making their first plane trip will be back in Washington, DC, leading our nation and the world.


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Esteban Villanueva