When the Cesar E. Chavez Committee presented its first Adelante Scholarship of $1,000 to Carlos Gomez late last month, the event marked the beginning of what the East County grass-roots organization hopes to make an annual award.

With money raised throughout the year from the Latino community, the committee hopes these scholarships will help encourage youth to attend college and continue their education.

Selecting Gomez, who graduated from Pittsburg High School last June and will attend the University of California Davis this fall, sends a clear message to the area's youth that attaining further education is well worth the effort, organizers say.

Carlos Gomez received the Cesar E. Chavez Committee’s first Adelante Scholarship.
Carlos Gomez received the Cesar E. Chavez Committee's first Adelante Scholarship.

Gomez, through his hard work and involvement in the Latino community, was a natural choice for the award. Alfredo Galindo, a teacher at Pittsburg High School, knows Gomez through his Spanish classes and as adviser for the school club, Latinos Unidos. When asked by committee member Lisa Bautista Vela for a deserving candidate, Gomez immediately came to mind.

Gomez not only participated in Latinos Unidos, serving as its president in his junior year, he also started the Folklorico dance troupe. He set up practices, made arrangements for performances and danced at school and multicultural events.

"Carlos was perfect for the scholarship, he was ahead of all the rest," Galindo said. "He was like a leader. When it comes to being a leader, he had everything; the students respected him and would go to him for advice."


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Gomez added that he believes the scholarship committee recognized his commitment to the community, his work with the TS Academy mentoring and tutoring young children and the translating he would do at parent-teacher conferences for non-English speaking parents.

"I think the main thing is that I was always ready to be of service and whenever someone asked me to do something I made time for it," Gomez said. "I put aside my things and never said no to anyone who needed my help."

At UC Davis Gomez plans to major in biochemistry and to continue his involvement in Chicano and religious groups, and has already been accepted to participate in a retreat for Latinos. His career direction toward health care is one that he believes would make his parents proud and allow him to give back to the community.

The young man, described by Galindo as very smart, well-mannered and well-liked, has a strong sense of who he is and where he's come from and does not accept this scholarship without the responsibilities it entails. What the community has given him, he plans to give back.

"The worst thing we could do is forget where we come from; it's important to carry our roots with us, to embrace them and show who we are," he said. "I think the committee gave me the scholarship because they want me to succeed, so my No. 1 responsibility is to make sure I succeed and graduate."

Indirectly, Gomez sees his acceptance to a four-year university as a message to other Latino youth. He acknowledges that the past four years were tough, balancing doing well in school and participating in clubs and community service with working full time in his junior and senior years, but he believes it was well worth it.

Galindo agrees and sees the worth of the Adelante Scholarship and Gomez's success as a pathway for more Latino involvement in school and clubs.

"Students will know there are scholarships they can qualify for and try to attend a four-year university," he said. "We want Hispanic students to dream bigger and let their dreams take them further."

Toward the end of Gomez's interview he related what happened at his work when a Latino dishwasher learned that Gomez would be attending UC Davis.

"I was touched by his reaction; he's a Latino just like me. He told me that I made him and the whole Chicano community proud because I was going to succeed," Gomez said.

"I think that's the thing that helped me connect, that I'm representing a certain group of people."

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