Dolores Huerta
Dolores Huerta, a founder of the United Farm Workers union and seen here at a 2014 event in Half Moon Bay, is scheduled to speak at the graduation for Pescadero High School seniors. Review file photo

After Pescadero High School senior Laura Gomez saw activist and labor leader Dolores Huerta speak at an event in San Francisco last fall, she felt energized and moved to act herself.

“I was inspired by her speech and her work,” Gomez said. “I admire her dedication and her commitment to farmworkers.”

So, Gomez took a chance and invited Huerta to Pescadero’s graduation in June. Gomez said her cross-country coach Lisa Mateja, who attended the event by her side, confirmed Tuesday that Huerta will attend graduation and give a speech.

Huerta, who grew up in Stockton, is a civil rights leader and founding member of the California farmworkers’ movement. She and Cesar Chavez created the United Farm Workers union in 1962, and her legacy lives on in workers’ rights efforts across the nation today.

Gomez knew Huerta’s message of fighting for farmworkers would resonate with her Pescadero classmates, many of whose families are part of the farm-working community. But she also thought getting their support would be a challenge.

“I’m a really shy person so just asking them was the hardest part,” Gomez said. “But a lot of people said, ‘Oh, that would be really great.’”

Gomez got help writing the letter from her English teacher and principal and sent it through Mateja. Gomez thought that would be the end of it. She never expected Huerta to respond, let alone agree to come speak at graduation.

But Huerta said she would, and now Gomez and Mateja are securing funding, in part through the Viking Boosters, and will donate $3,000 to Huerta’s foundation as a way to thank her for her visit to campus.

“I was so excited, and she was so excited because we worked together on it,” Gomez said.

Gomez said she hasn’t told her parents the news yet, but that she thinks they will be elated. Her parents are farmworkers and Gomez says she knows the struggle families like hers have to endure. She hopes Huerta’s message will lift her community.

“I just want her to inspire us,” Gomez says. “(After seeing Huerta), I was really happy and excited and I wanted to change something. And I want that mentality to transfer to the other students.”

Gomez said she doesn’t yet know her plans after graduation, but she knows she wants to go to college and that she sees Huerta as an inspiration for whatever she chooses to do next.

“She said that every moment is an organizing opportunity and every person is a potential activist,” Gomez said. “And I want to be that activist.”

This version makes clear the donation to Huerta's foundation.

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