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Homepage Photo: Angela Rivera at the United Farm Workers Convention with a young boy who was in attendance.
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An Advocate for Social Justice
Angela Rivera learns to organize communities through the Dolores Huerta Foundation
By Lisa Laughlin
University of Idaho Senior Angela Rivera, a Sociology major with an emphasis in Criminology, had the unique opportunity to intern with the Dolores Huerta Foundation (DHF) this summer, spending two months in Bakersfield, California organizing events in communities to promote social change. The goal of the DHF, according to their mission statement, is to “create a network of organized communities pursuing social justice through systematic and structural transformation.”
“I found out about DHF through the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) because they were hosting their Annual Cesar Chavez Celebration [and] I volunteered with the farm worker awareness. I was delighted and amazed to know Ms. Huerta was coming to the University of Idaho. When I met Ms. Huerta, I was honored to meet a legacy and advocate who fights for social justice for the farm workers,” said Rivera.
Idaho’s CAMP program helped Rivera set up the internship credits, and along with the College of Letters, Arts, and Social Sciences (CLASS) and Sociology Department, helped her with the financial aid to complete the DHF internship.
“CAMP encourages their students to do an internship to gain experience and for them to increase their skills to become successful leaders in their careers,” she said. “I was inspired by the DHF mission statements [of] Health, Environment, Education, Youth Development, and Economic Development.”
And it was in the spirit of those five major themes that Rivera crafted her own social organization projects to complete during her May to June internship. Her first of three projects focused on developing civic engagement in Kern County, California. Working with the California Calls Alliance (CaCalls Aliance) organization, Rivera spread awareness.
“The main concerns of DHF and CaCalls Alliances were to raise revenues for education, and individuals to register for the upcoming elections and vote for the propositions that were being addressed in the state of California,” said Rivera.
Rivera personally engaged canvassers from the community to contact registered and potential voters, recruit volunteers to walk precincts, and manage technology equipment. The most important aspect for promoting this was coordination and being prepared ahead of time.
“I grew more as a leader by carrying responsibility by supervising over other individuals,” said Rivera. “I educated other individuals in the community about the importance of voting, [and] I was able to learn firsthand developmental structure of engaging others in the projects that I was involved in.”
Her second project focused on health development, as she set out to create a farmer’s market in the underserved community of Lamont, CA.
“With the research we discovered that Lamont already had a farmer’s market. However, there were disadvantages that were addressed to us: the farmer’s market was only open on certain days and the produce was highly priced. We inquired if we could expand the farmer’s market or establish another one in Weedpatch, California,” she said.
Rivera’s proposal was rejected by the Agriculture Department and Environmental Health Department, and the expansion development was denied.
“Since the project was denied, the information was communicated to Dolores Huerta. She stated, ‘organizing a project sometimes fails, but it’s part of being an organizer.’ Even though the project was not fulfilled, knowledge was gained by being exposed to a hands-on experience,” said Rivera.
Her third and final project of her internship focused on promoting higher education and youth development. She recruited youth to go the AFUERA (Activities for Understanding Environmental Respect & Accountability) outdoor camp.
“The AFUERA program incorporates ‘WildPlaces,’ a nonprofit organization for the youth. ‘Wildplaces educates others to protect, respect, and understand their connections with nature,” she said.
“Wildplaces” used three major programs to engage the youth: immersion in the wild (engaging the youth in stewardship of the land and water), Rio Limpio (keeping the river clean, safe, and open to the public), and Sequoia Forest Days (to collect giant Sequoia seeds).
A few of Rivera’s direct responsibilities for this project included planning the structure of development to increase youth attendance and growth, developing an agenda for up-coming meetings, presenting and educating others regarding the AFUERA youth project, translating paperwork and compiling applications to the “Wildplaces” camp, and coordinating travel logistics.
“I personally take to heart what the role of organization requires and [to be] able to make a difference in the world,” said Rivera. “The most valuable aspect of interning with the Dolores Huerta Foundation has been giving back to Bakersfield community by creating networks of organized communities to pursue social justice.”
A few of the skills Rivera gained through her internship were learning to engage with people, seek leaders in the community, and hold meetings to organize what issues needed to be brought to the attention of the city hall.
“There are many ways organizers become an essential part of the community because many others look up to them to accomplish and establish social justice in their communities. It takes a full-time position to complete all the details for those components to come together in order to expand and organize events or the individual,” said Rivera.
After observing firsthand the positive impact a social organizer can make on a community, Rivera plans to use her skills and pursue organizing in the future. She contributes much of this desire to the impact of the DHF during her internship.
“Working with Dolores Huerta was an honor. She was an individual who gave love to others and stood firm in what justice she was bringing to others’ attention. I understood how a foundation operates. She did impact me, by telling me I’m a natural organizer and helping me see my full potential to make a difference and be a leader.”
Rivera said her experience with DHF has also been a stepping stone to her desire to become an attorney.
“I have the skill of organizing and the will to help others through social justice,” she said. “I gained more passion to help others prosper and educate them about their rights . . . [and] to become an attorney to help others, the way Dolores Huerta has.”
With her determination, Rivera will surely become a leader of her community in the future.
“If you have a goal, to achieve don’t dwell on the negative aspect. Focus on the good. You can impact others. Be open-minded and be humble because all opportunities can develop for you to become a leader. It only took initiative to make my dream come true. Like Dolores Huerta states: ‘Si, Se Puede’ (Yes, You Can Do It).”