CHILLUM – Cesar Chavez Spanish Dual Language Immersion School has a lot to celebrate this month. Not only is March the birth month of their namesake, but they hosted a few special visitors to celebrate another birthday: The 100th birthday of the National Park Service. On Tuesday, March 22, the school hosted a group from […]
CHILLUM – Cesar Chavez Spanish Dual Language Immersion School has a lot to celebrate this month.
Not only is March the birth month of their namesake, but they hosted a few special visitors to celebrate another birthday: The 100th birthday of the National Park Service.
On Tuesday, March 22, the school hosted a group from the park service, as well as Maria Sanelli, an expert in Cesar Chavez and friend of the Chavez family. The group packed a fourth grade classroom to tell the students a little bit about Chavez and give them a special gift.
“We believe that children are the future for national parks. Our job is to preserve and protect these American treasures and our stories in perpetuity and the only way we’re going to be able to do that is by engaging our young people,” said Gopaul Noojibail, superintendent of 16 national parks in Washington, D.C.
Noojibail, along with a small group of park rangers and national park employees, gave each of the fourth grade students a year-long pass to any national park in the United States and also taught the students about the parks.
When asked where they wanted to go, the students shouted “Yellowstone” and “Yosemite,” but Noojibail wanted to let the students know there are dozens of parks just a few miles away like the White House, Arlington National Cemetery, the Washington Monument and many more.
The passes, he said, are part of a celebratory program designated by President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama to get every fourth grade student into a park. The program is rightly dubbed “Every Kid in a Park.”
“Presiden Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama feel very, very strongly that the children are our future and as such, they want to get every child out into a national park,” Noojibail said. “The ‘Every Kid in a Park’ program is focused on fourth graders, so every fourth grader will have the opportunity to visit a national park, free of charge.”
The goal is to not only get the children and their families interested in national parks, but to also educate them about the importance of the parks in preserving history. Noojibail said there are also special programs at the parks for students to “make them feel special” and show them how they can make a difference.
Sanelli also talked to the students about how they can make a difference. She spoke to the class about the life and legacy of Cesar Chavez and the contributions he made to society.
“The population of the United States should know about the contributions he made for social justice and migrant workers and unionization, and there are just so many things we can learn from him,” she said.
Sanelli brought pictures with her for the school to keep and talked to the students about five main themes of Chavez’s life: power through coalitions, the UFW as more than a union, “sí se puede” (yes we can), the importance of spirituality, and faith and home as a refuge.
“The five main themes that are taught are themes that hold true no matter where you are in the country or what you do,” she said. “I don’t think those five themes are unique to Cesar Chavez and Mexicans specifically. I think those are messages and his life serves as an example for all of us.”
Katherine Flores and Randy Romero are both fourth grade students at Cesar Chavez school and both said they learned a lot about parks and about Chavez.
“I learned that his two best friends were dogs. I did not know that. And that they were buried with him,” Romero said.
Flores said she also learned that Chavez was a vegetarian and had around 31 grandchildren. She said it is really important to learn about him and national parks so the stories and history are preserved.
“For all our children’s children to learn all about nature and all about animals and all about important people, all about presidents and people who help people,” Romero said.
Both were excited about their passes and said their dream is to visit Yellowstone National Park.