Dolores Huerta, civil rights activist, speaks at Ventura High School


Dolores Huerta speaks in the auditorium. She has led farm workers and community members in Ventura County through her decades-long career. Photo by: Alejandro Hernandez

Alejandro Hernandez

The 93-year-old labor leader left students with words of advice

From 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. on June 15, the last day of the 2022-23 VHS school year, labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta was featured at VHS. First, she spoke in the VHS auditorium, then answered questions, which combined took an hour and finally took photos with students during the remaining period. Huerta, the creator of the phrase “Sí se puede,” or “Yes, we can,” spoke about leadership and implored students, parents and other community members to become more politically involved and make their voices heard.

Huerta started her speech by remembering her early efforts to organize people in Oxnard. In addition, she made political statements about the need for greater education about indigenous history, free college, universal health, free daycare and more women in power. She also emphasized the need for voting to facilitate her previous statements, encouraging students to register to vote and go to college.

After her speech, Huerta answered questions from ASB President Mateo Navarro ‘23 and Crystal Salazar Garcia ‘26, the 2023-24 AVID vice president. The questions surrounded her leadership background and her advice for students and citizens.

Huerta answers a question from Navarro. Photo by: Alejandro Hernandez

In response to Navarro and Salazar Garcia’s final question about advice for students, Huerta said, “When all these things happen around us, we’re not going to cry or complain. We’re going to organize people to join our movement for justice. Don’t think someone is going to come and solve your problems. You have the power to solve your problems in your community. We have to make that commitment to participate and become involved and become the soldiers of justice. You have to go out there and save the [environment] for your children and grandchildren. This is serious stuff that is happening right now. …We have the power.”

Navarro said, “[Creating the Huerta mural] was a vision [in my] junior year. We were just coming back to life again. Students were so ready for some change and some action. I wanted to get a representative who embodied Ventura County and Latinos and the Farm Worker Community. Who better to pick?”

After the Q&A, people took photos with Huerta in front of the mural dedicated to her. The Dolores Huerta Foundation also had a table nearby with information.

The Huerta event had been in the making for a month prior and was organized by Navarro with the support of the VHS administration and the VUSD. Navarro also organized a mural made in her honor at VHS during the 2021-22 school year.

Navarro said, “She has made such a huge [impact] in Ventura County. We wanted an activist … and we thought she’d be the perfect choice. She [addressed] the youth [with] advice for student leadership because it’s very student-based.”