Director of Civic and Community Engagement Marisol Morales and her community service class explored the history of the Farm Workers Movement and immigration laws in Kern County in January.
Morales and her class visited Bakersfield after studying the Farm Workers Movement and key leaders like Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez.
The class spent four days learning about the history and getting to know how these people changed lives, Morales said.
“Hearing first-hand accounts made the experience much more vivid for (the students),” Morales said.
Students visited historic sites of such as Villa La Paz and the actual locations where activists fought for their rights and were beaten by police, said senior kinesiology major Jessica Reeves, who went on the trip.
The students were able to meet Dolores Huerta, who was American labor leader and civil rights activist during the movement. The group had dinner with her and asked questions about her experiences.
They heard her personal account of the Farm Workers Movement and got to hear about her family, Reeves said.
“My favorite part, of course, was meeting Dolores Huerta,” Reeves said.
“Meeting her on a personal level was just amazing. She’s a hero to many people in this state.”
Junior political science major Mariela Martinez said she took this class because her grandfather was part of the Bracero Program, which allowed Mexican laborers to temporarily work in the United States during World War II. Martinez said she felt connected to the subject.
“The most inspirational part was meeting Dolores Huerta,” Martinez said. “She is 84 years old, and she has been involved in so many international movements.”
Part of this class involved volunteering on the University’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. The students volunteered at Amy’s Farm, a small family-owned farm in Ontario.
They worked on a farm for a few hours to experience, first hand, what it was like to work for the farm workers during the movement, Morales said. The students helped clean up the vegetable fields and trimmed trees.
“The point was to experience what it was like to work on a farm and put themselves in the shoes of the farm workers,” Morales said.
“They only experienced it for a couple of hours but it was experience of what it would be like to be agricultural laborers.”
Morales partnered with Kern County Regional Campus Director Nora Dominguez to organize the class trip.
Morales said she plans to offer the class again next January.
Vanessa Oceguera can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.