San Joaquin Delta College alumna Dolores Clara Fernandez Huerta helped change history.
The civil rights icon and labor leader launched the National Farm Workers Association – which later became the United Farm Workers – with brother-in-arms César E. Chávez. She also helped organize the Delano grape strike of 1965 and has received numerous awards for her community service and advocacy for workers’, immigrants’ and women’s rights, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
She is the originator of the phrase “Si, se puede,” and an inspiration to millions.
Dolores Clara Fernandez Huerta was born on April 10, 1930, in northern New Mexico, but she spent most of her childhood and early adult life in Stockton, where she and her two brothers moved with their mother, Alicia, following her parents’ divorce. She was active in numerous Stockton High School clubs and was a dedicated member of the Girl Scouts until the age of 18.
Huerta continued her education at the University of the Pacific’s Stockton College, which later became San Joaquin Delta College, earning a provisional teaching credential. While teaching, she could no longer bear to see her students come to school with empty stomachs and bare feet and thus began her lifelong journey of working to correct economic injustice.
She found her calling as an organizer while serving in the leadership of the Stockton Community Service Organization. During that time, she founded the Agricultural Workers Association, set up voter registration drives and pressed local governments for barrio improvements. She and the organization's Executive Director, César Chávez, discovered that they shared a common vision of organizing farm workers, an idea that was not in line with the Community Service Organization’s mission.
As a result, in the spring of 1962 Chávez and Dolores resigned and launched the National Farm Workers Association. Huerta’s organizing skills were critical in the organization’s growth, and as the principal legislative advocate, she became one of the UFW’s most visible spokespersons.
Huerta continues to help develop leaders and advocate for the working poor, women and children. As voluntary president of the Dolores Huerta Foundation, she travels across the country speaking to students and organizations about issues of social justice and public policy.
“Think of yourselves as the gardeners who are going to go out and sow the seeds of justice,” Huerta told an audience of 650 people attending a San Joaquin Delta College screening of the documentary “Dolores” in February of 2018. “And those seeds are going to flower and the spring is going to come back. But we know we have to go out there and do all the work.”