Happy Holidays! Feliz Navidad!
This is always my favorite time of the year – full of family, friends, students, colleagues, tamales and lots of good cheer. Also a great time to reflect on the year that just passed, as well as look ahead to all the exciting events and programs we’re planning for 2024.
This has been a landmark year for FIELD. We are especially proud of how far we’ve come and the number of people we have served in 2023. We are now in 11 counties, with 20 campuses serving almost 1,000 farmworkers, recent immigrants, and other adults.
Our 2nd annual Toy 4 Tots giveaway earlier this month was a rousing success, with over 1,200 toys given out to over 500 families. Thank you to all our sponsors this year – Radio Lobo, Kiwanis, Toys 4 Tots and the United Farm Workers. We’re excited to announce a new partnership with Celebration Nation through founder and activist Flor Martinez (@FlowerinSpanish on Instagram), who donated over 350 boxes of food for our families. You can read about our event in the story below.
I’m also pleased to report that our FIELD educational programs are growing and thriving. Our EPIC high school grew from 500 students last year to over 800 enrolled this year. Our ESL program – which is the feeder program into our high school — had 100 students enrolled online last year. This year, we had triple the number of students participating both in person and online.
Financially, this year, thanks to an $8 million state allocation by Assemblyman Rudy Salas ( now running for Congress), we were able to purchase a new, permanent home on 2240 S. Union Ave. for our much-needed Career Technical and Economic development facility. Our facility will enable us to provide robust support services for our students and corps members in our educational, job and entrepreneurial-training programs.
In our programs area, we are especially proud of the following accomplishments:
- Housing – Our new facility on S. Union Ave is allowing us to develop transitional housing for our 18-27 year old unhoused youths.
- Commercial Kitchen – We are also building out a commercial kitchen at the new facility to launch our Culinary Job Program, and help feed our students.
- Healthy Food – Our Farm-to-Fork Agricultural Program is in the works to help us feed healthy food to our corpsmembers and students.
- Firefighting – We are training the next generation of environmental firefighters through our Wildland Firefighting Program in conjunction with Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Kern County Fire Department, and the National Park Service.
- Renewables – We are developing our solar and construction apprenticeship programs to train our students in these exciting renewable energy technologies.
- Childcare – Our Early Childhood Education training centers are not only giving hands-on experience to our childcare teachers, it is offering enriching daycare services to for the children of our students and staff.
- Clean Water – Our clean-water partnerships with public and private organizations including Cadiz and local Native Indian tribes, is offering training opportunities to our students in building out clean water installation and fabrication of water filtration equipment to combat the tainted water many of our communities live with.
At FIELD, we believe that the best way to combat poverty is to build the capacity of our students to own, develop and operate shared employee-owned cooperative businesses. That’s why all of our programs are designed to provide our students with work experience as the best way to ensure their success.
That model comes from our founder, Cesar Chavez who shared his vision with leadership 30 years ago at his 66th birthday celebration. Our mission continues to promote social and economic justice for farmworkers, immigrants and all low-wage, low-skilled worker and their families.
In the words of Cesar, “Si Se Puede!”
Again, wishing all of you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
David Villarino Gonzalez