“Si Se Puede!” Yes They Can

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“Students must have initiative, they should not be imitators. They must learn to think and act for themselves – and be free.”
– Cesar E. Chavez
Five students with initiative from Southwestern College were awarded scholarships at the 11th Annual Cesar E. Chavez Scholarship Breakfast hosted by the Chicano-Latino Coalition. Academic co-chair Alma Aguilar said the CLC has awarded more than $50,000 in scholarships since 1975.
Jessica Casillas, Itzel Tenorio, David Ramos Chavez, Caleb Henderson and Claudia Tirado were presented $1,000 scholarships. Desayuno adhered to a traditional Mexican theme, welcoming attendees with the sweet smell of chorizo, pollo and frilojes.
Keynote speaker Dr. Olivia Graeve said she was an SWC student 20 years ago. Graeve is currently an associate professor of material science and engineering at UCSD.
“Si se puede!”she declared, echoing Chavez. (It can be done!)
“It’s just the perfect three words,” she said. “It means there is nothing in life that can stop you. It’s like a river. Water might want to get through and there are big rocks, but you know what the river does? It goes around the rocks.”
Chavez and the United Farm Workers coined the motto in 1972 and it remains relevant to this day, she said.
Graeve told students to reach high.
“The final message is to have lofty goals,” she said. “You may think that you are unable to achieve them, but have them anyway. When I was walking the halls around here I never thought I was going to end up as an engineering professor at UCSD. You just don’t know where life is going to take you, but think big and in 20 years I bet you will be standing at this podium yourself.”
Journalism instructor Bernard Gonzalez served as master of ceremonies. He mentioned a Sun reporter asking him what was the best interview he had ever done.
“It was my interview with Mother Teresa” he replied. “I was very blessed to be able to interview her in the streets of Tijuana near her order. The one impactful thing that she said to me was there are no great things, there are only small things done with great love.”
Gonzalez said events like this mean more than the scholarship money to student honorees.
“When we honor these students, we hand them a check and clap and we think they just go on their way,” he said. “What we’re doing is really dropping breadcrumbs along the way. We’re telling them if you follow this path, you’re going to be able to live your dreams.”
Honoree Casillas said she has plans for her scholarship money.
“I wasn’t expecting, it but I’m super happy about it because right now my computer broke and my financial aid wasn’t enough to pay for everything,” she said. “I work part time at SWC as an assistant worker, but it is a limited amount of hours. That computer, I really need it.”
Henderson said he was thankful for the experience.
“This is a very humbling experience,” he said. “I appreciate all the support from all the clubs. My MESA family came out to support me. My mom, little brother, step dad and dad couldn’t come, but I had the school’s support and this is pretty much home.”

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