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ASU program fosters community spirit in teens

June 19, 2013

Rudi Ward has a lot on his mind these days, as he prepares to enter his junior year at Winslow High School in August.

Where to attend college after graduation, what major to pick and how he can better serve his community are questions he’s been asking of himself lately. Ward said a recent field trip to Arizona State University prompted him to think more about his future and his community.

Ward was one of 60 high school students from around the state who attended the annual Cesar Chavez Leadership Institute (CCLI), a six-day interactive program hosted by ASU. On June 5, Ward and his cohorts assisted with several CARE Partnership programs in Mesa, Ariz., including cleaning and stocking toys, sorting clothes for a back-to-school drive and cleaning shelves at a local food bank.

“We were all a little apprehensive in the beginning, but we got over that fairly quickly because we realized we were here for the same thing, and that’s to help others,” Ward said. “It’s a little hard walking around in the heat but if that’s what we have to do to get things done and start a movement that’s going to help people, then that’s what we’ll have to do.”

That’s the message the CCLI wants to drive home,says program coordinator Elyssa Bustamante.

“A mission of Cesar Chavez was to empower people and help them no matter what their situation might be,” Bustamante said. “The CARE Partnership directly aligns with the mission of Cesar Chavez, as well as the values of CCLI.”

In addition to participating in the community project, students attended several workshops exploring higher education, developing leadership skills and examining the legacy of Cesar Chavez while living on the ASU campus.

“Before this week I didn’t know much about Cesar Chavez, but after I learned of what he had done, igniting this passion in others around him and creating a movement that started in Arizona and went universal, his legacy is something I definitely want to be a part of and share with others,” Ward said.

The CCLI was established in 1995 to honor Chavez for his servant leadership, commitment to higher education and community service.