Biography Employment Privacy Notice The ABC's Illinois Up Close and Personal Web Site
Community Resources Exploring Illinois I Am A... I Want To... Illinois Carpool Teachers Resource Desk
Blackout Solutions Clean Water Green Solutions Healthy Communities Illinois Carpool Illinois Connect Illinois Main Street Illinois to the World Operation Homefront Rural Affairs Save Our Eagles Service Learning Taxpayer Action Walk Across Illinois
Commentary Events Games Meeting Notices Publications Resources Stories Videos

Cesar Chavez Serve and Learn Program

"We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community...Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own." - Cesar Chavez

¡ Si Se Puede!

Telegram from MLK Jr to Cesar Chavez

The Cesar Chavez Serve and Learn Program instills an ethic of service and civic responsibility in our young people. This innovative concept of Service Learning couples academic instruction with related community-service projects.

The Cesar Chavez Serve and Learn Program takes place in three parts:

  • Pre-service
  • Service
  • Project reflection

Students are taught the values of Cesar Chavez and how his leadership changed the lives of thousands of migrant farm workers. Based on student’s awareness of Chavez's life, they are encouraged to look within their own community and emulate his work, addressing present-day community issues. The final step of the program is project reflection, which allows students to discuss what they've learned and share their community service experience with their school.

During the week of March 31 (Chavez's birthday), schools, agencies and community organizations may participate in this innovative program to encourage community service by our young people while serving as an educational tool for school history, social studies, environmental and art classes.

Student cleaning up park

Students across Illinois will learn the importance of community service by addressing hunger issues, volunteering at nursing homes, cleaning up parks and planting gardens.

Cesar Chavez was a labor leader who dedicated his life to improving the standard of living, wages and working conditions of farm workers. Chavez was a labor organizer, civil rights crusader and a war veteran who joined the U.S. Navy in 1945 and served in the Western Pacific at the end of World War II. Founder of the National Farm Workers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers Union, Chavez’s tireless commitment opened untold doors for disenfranchised migrants and workers.

Although he died in 1993, his spirit still lives. One way to celebrate his life and legacy is through the Cesar Chavez Serve and Learn Program. This program is geared toward K-12 students who, through academic instruction and community service projects, will learn the importance of service to others and the difference they truly can make.

For a list of Chavez Serve and Learn Projects, click here

Cesar Chavez - A Legacy of Service and Conviction

Cesar Chavez

Cesar Chavez 1927-1993

As described by his family, Cesar Chavez was an ordinary man with an extraordinary legacy of great accomplishment and service to humanity. Cesar was born March 31, 1927 in Yuma, Arizona on a farm his grandfather homesteaded in the 1880s.

At age 10, his life as a migrant farm worker began when his family lost their land during the Great Depression.

These were bitterly poor years for the Chavez family as they, together with thousands of other displaced families, migrated throughout the Southwest to labor in the fields and vineyards.

Although he possessed a thirst for learning that he would exhibit throughout the course of his life, Cesar left school after the eighth grade to help support his family. He joined the U.S. Navy in 1945 and served in the Western Pacific in the aftermath of World War II. In 1948, he married Helen Febela, whom he met while working in the vineyards of Delano. The Chavez family settled in the East San Jose barrio of Sal Si Puedes from which he continued to work in the surrounding fields, orchards, and vineyards of the region.

It was in 1952 that Cesar's life as a community organizer began. While working in the apricot orchards outside San Jose, he became a full-time organizer with the Community Service Organization (CSO), a self-help group among Mexican-Americans. In this capacity he organized voter registration drives, battled racial and economic discrimination, and organized CSO chapters across California and Arizona. Following his dream to establish an organization dedicated to farm workers, Cesar moved his family to Delano, California in 1962 to establish the National Farm Workers Association.

Over the next thirty-one years, Cesar would forge a legacy of service, conviction and principled leadership that serves as a beacon for all Americans. As President of the United Farm Workers of America (UFW), AFL-CIO, he founded and led the first successful farm workers union in U.S. history. Under his stewardship a broad coalition of unions, religious groups, students, minorities, and consumers joined together to pursue social justice.

The late Senator Robert Kennedy called Cesar Chavez, "One of the heroic figures of our time." As a testimony to his lifelong contributions to humanity, he received the highest civilian awards from the United States and Mexico, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Aguila Azteca respectively.

This is the legacy that we celebrate and seek to share with all our children through the Cesar Chavez Serve and Learn Program.

To read the Illinois House Joint Resolution click here.

Biography of Cesar Chavez for Kids

Interactive Audio/Visual Presentation

A Collaborative Project by University of Illinois and Governors State University

Cesar Chavez Serve and Learn Program FAQ

What is Cesar Chavez Day?

On or during the week of March 31st (Cesar Chavez's birthday), Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn is encouraging K-12 school students to join with their community and collaborate on a service project that address local needs-a fitting tribute to the legacy and stewardship of Chavez.

Cesar Chavez Serve and Learn Program is based on a teaching methodology called "Service Learning" that links volunteer service to a school's academic curriculum.

Classroom teachers will present curricular material to help students understand the life and work of Chavez, giving students the opportunity to learn and develop an ethic of service and civic responsibility by putting their learning into action.

Chavez dedicated himself to improving the lives of others, and this project has been developed in that spirit. Lt. Gov. Quinn is calling on K-12 schools to find a project in their neighborhood to meet the local needs of their community.

This is a flexible program, and is not limited to projects connected to hunger. Each school project is completely up to its teachers and students, and can easily tie into history, chemistry, environmental science, English, economics, social studies and/or civics classes.

Why is Service Learning Important?

A national study of Learn and Serve America programs suggests effective service-learning programs improve academic grades, increase attendance in school, and develop personal and social responsibilities. Whether the goal is academic improvement, personal development, or both-students learn critical thinking, communication, teamwork, civic responsibility, mathematical reasoning, problem solving, public speaking, vocational skills, computer skills, scientific method, research skills, and analysis.

Why is Celebrating the Legacy of Cesar Chavez Important?

Cesar Chavez made the community a part of his life. Facing challenges and obstacles head on through non-violent tactics, Chavez helped thousands of migrant workers across the country -- changing the farm labor movement forever.

Chavez developed a blend of values, philosophy and styles dedicated to non-violence, volunteerism and public action. As a result of this blend, he established the first collective bargaining agreement between farm workers and growers in the continental United States. This contract was negotiated to provide farm workers better working conditions, such as rest periods, clean drinking water, hand-washing facilities, protective clothing, and safe working environments.

Chavez is also recognized for staging the most successful boycott of his time against grape producers. Working conditions were poor for the huge population of migrant workers and illegal immigrants. Unsanitary conditions and horrible wages evoked anger between workers and employers, and set the foundation for large-scale wage strikes.

Chavez sent representatives throughout the country to coordinate boycott meetings and fundraising efforts. In 1970 the pressure of the ongoing boycott resulted in the signing of contracts that provided workers with significant benefits.

What Liability Issues Must We Consider?

Although the risk factors are low in most circumstances, it is a good idea to plan ahead in case of an emergency. Responsibility for damage or injury must be addressed in two ways.

  1. By the School. Teachers must send home with students the standard school permission slip that describes the important project information, requests emergency contacts, and the all-important waiver of school liability.
  2. By the Agency. The organization you will be working with may also have a permission slip that you will need to have signed by parents/chaperones. These permission slips must be brought with you on the day of service and given to a representative of the agency.

What Level of Participation is Expected?

Each school can participate as much or as little as it prefers. Some schools may have an entire grade collaborate on a project together while others might choose to participate as an individual classroom. Other schools may want to participate as an after-school endeavor involving a club or team. Whatever is decided, Lt. Gov. Quinn is happy to have schools and agencies join other participants in Illinois.

Along with the Chavez Foundation and National Learn and Serve Programs, Lt. Gov. Quinn strongly encourages participating schools/classes/clubs/teams to follow the three-part series: Pre-service, Service and Post-service. The service project should involve some classroom study beforehand, working on the project, and finally providing structured time for students to reflect on what they have learned.

Are There Resources Available for Classrooms?

Resource materials are available by clicking on the Lesson Plans link. The Lesson Plans have been specially tailored to meet the Illinois Learning Standards (ILS) to compliment existing classroom curriculum.

The Illinois Learning Standards (ILS) define what all students in all Illinois public schools should know and be able to do in the seven core academic areas -- English language arts, math, science, social science, physical development and health, fine arts, and foreign language.

Projects related to the Cesar Chavez Serve and Learn Program can include writing assignment for English, history and/or civics. Science students can research the effect of pesticides used on agricultural fields and the dangerous effects they had on farmworkers. It can be as easy as first and second grade students collecting change to donate to a food shelter while learning to recognize currency.

Can We Incorporate an Existing Class Project?

Yes, any existing service project can easily be incorporated into the Cesar Chavez Serve and Learn Program. This is a flexible program tailored to meet the needs of your local community while still meeting your school's overall goals. Chavez lived his life by exemplifying values that each student can take and incorporate into their project. The ten core values are listed within the Lesson Plans link.

Do I Have to Work with/through Another Organization?

The Cesar Chavez Serve and Learn Program gives schools the option of either working with a community-based agency or an internal school organization, such as your Parent-Teacher Association, local school council or student school council. The program encourages students and teachers to find meaningful partners to collaborate on a community service project that addresses local community needs.

How Do We Find a Project?

Lt. Gov. Quinn has developed this Web site as a resource center for this Serve and Learn project. This Web site serves as a forum where schools and agencies in the same area can connect and partner on community projects. As more agencies register, you will be able to find places to serve right in your area.

The Greater Chicago Food Depository has also set up a link from our Web site where interested volunteers can search with a zip code for nearby agencies dedicated to meeting hunger needs.

Other links on the Web site provide more resources to connect interested volunteers with agencies in need. For instance, Volunteermatch.org is a helpful community service search engine that match volunteer opportunities with a zip code and project-searching tool.

The Greater Chicago Food Depository has agreed to partner with Lt. Gov. Quinn on this program. By clicking on the agency's logo on our Web site you will be connected to soup kitchens, food banks, and other hunger agencies in need of volunteers.

Their Web site searches by zip code to locate the food banks and soup kitchens within that zip code. They provide contact information and hours of operation to further help your decision on where to volunteer.

If volunteering at a soup kitchen or food bank is not an option for your class, a school or community-wide food drive might be an option. Students can collect non-perishable goods over the week or month and the Greater Chicago Food Depository will pick up and deliver it to families in need.