WASHINGTON, DC — On Tuesday, March 26th, the White House will honor eleven people as Cesar Chavez "Champions of Change." This Champions event, "A Legacy of Service: Organizing for Immigration Reform," will honor those who embody the spirit of Cesar Chavez's legacy and commit themselves to working in their communities to advocate and organize around immigration-related issues. Though the honorees come from vastly different backgrounds, they all share a commitment to realizing Chavez's core values and the dream of a more just tomorrow.
"These eleven individuals exemplify the core decency and generosity of Americans, by welcoming and giving voice to those that come to our shore. Whether through advocacy and civil rights, helping with housing and education, engagement in churches and communities, or simply by being a friend, the citizens we honor today embody the legacy of the great Cesar Chavez, who dedicated his life to fighting for justice for all," said senior advisor to the President, Valerie Jarrett.
The Champions of Change program was created as an opportunity for the White house to feature groups of Americans — individuals, businesses and organizations — who are doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities.
To watch this event live, visit www.whitehouse.gov/live at 10:00 am ET on March 26th. To learn more about the White House Champions of Change program and nominate a Champion, visit www.whitehouse.gov/champions.
Judy Rickard, San Jose, CA
Judy Rickard, author of Torn Apart: United by Love, Divided by Law, Findhorn Press, 2011, has worked to promote civil rights since 1973 as a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activist. She has extensive experience working with politicians and educators in San Jose/Santa Clara County, California where she lives. Speaking engagements, a blog, and a website continue her advocacy for comprehensive immigration reform that will include the recognition of same-sex binational families in the United States. She is a pioneer in applying for a green card for her wife, UK national Karin Bogliolo, with The DOMA Project.
Lawrence Benito, Chicago, IL
Lawrence Benito serves as the Chief Executive Officer at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), one of the leading organizations with the Fair Immigration Reform Movement fighting for just and humane immigration policies. The son of immigrants from the Philippines, Lawrence has spent the last twenty years working for justice for immigrants and other disenfranchised groups, through community and electoral organizing. Currently, he serves on the board of directors for Chicago Public Media, and is a proud Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Ghana, '93-95).
Yvanna Cancela, Las Vegas, NV
Yvanna Cancela lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. She is the political director at UNITE HERE's Local 226, the Culinary Workers Union. Yvanna's work has increased clergy and community involvement and political mobilization. She is currently helping to coordinate a statewide campaign for comprehensive immigration reform. Yvanna has dedicated herself to ensuring workers have a strong voice on the job and in their communities. She believes all jobs should give people the opportunity to provide for their families and themselves. Yvanna graduated from Northwestern University in 2010.
Ian Danley, Phoenix, AZ
Ian is a community leader and community organizer whose work for nearly 10 years has been directing youth leadership and college preparatory programs for local urban youth at Neighborhood Ministries. The program has led to scores of low-income youth graduating from high school and connecting to career and post-secondary options. Ian serves on the advisory board at Promise Arizona and is active at his church. He was also recently elected to the Governing Board of the Phoenix Union High School District in November where he plans on bringing a grassroots perspective towards change to local high schools. Ian is married to his wife Shiloh and they are expecting their first child, Tyler, to be born this summer.
Jason Mathis, Salt Lake City, UT
Jason Mathis is the executive director of Salt Lake City's Downtown Alliance and EVP of the Salt Lake Chamber overseeing policy initiatives for immigration and urban development. He excels at framing public discourse to accomplish strategic goals and has successfully managed several high-profile issues in complex settings. Jason helped draft The Utah Compact by bringing together diverse stakeholders to create a simple values-based document. The Compact changed the trajectory of Utah's policies and the national discussion, creating a more civil, compassionate and comprehensive approach to immigration reform.
L. Mireya Reith, Fayetteville, AR
L. Mireya Reith is Executive Director of Arkansas United Community Coalition (AUCC), Arkansas' first nonprofit working at the state level to empower immigrants. Inspired by her experiences growing up in Fayetteville, Arkansas as the daughter of a Mexican immigrant, Reith founded AUCC in order to more broadly foster the integration of her state's newly emerged immigrant population. Reith proudly served her country as a municipal development volunteer with the Peace Corps in El Salvador, and currently serves her state as the first Latina and youngest person ever appointed by the Governor to the Arkansas State Board of Education. Reith's commitment and passion for diversity further derives from her 14-year career in the field of international political development, where she worked across five continents with American nonprofit organizations and the United Nations to engage marginalized communities in democratic processes.
Maria Rodriguez, Miami, FL
Maria has worked to defend basic human rights of low-income and migrant peoples for 25 years. She is a graduate of Georgetown University, where Maria was active in the anti-apartheid and Central America solidarity movements. She connected with Tenant and Workers' United, where she became the lead organizer on a campaign to create a housing cooperative. She has worked to defend public health care coverage and promoted the growth of award-winning free clinics: La Clinica del Pueblo in Washington, D.C. and Good News Care Center in Florida. She also served as Deputy Director of the Human Services Coalition in South Florida. Maria has been a Board Member for Florida New Majority, ACLU of Florida, New World Foundation Board in New York, and the Highlander Center in Tennessee. She co-founded FLIC in 2005 and is the mother of Dante.
Rich Stolz, Seattle, WA
Rich Stolz was born in South Korea, grew up in California, and lives in Seattle, but has lived and organized in communities as diverse as Maine, Alabama, Arizona, and Washington, D.C. He is the Executive Director of OneAmerica, the largest immigrant rights advocacy organization in Washington State. Previously, Rich worked at the Center for Community Change (CCC).
Matthew Soerens, Glen Ellyn, IL
Matthew Soerens serves as the US Church Training Specialist for World Relief, which is the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals. Matthew previously served as a Board of Immigration Appeals-accredited legal counselor at World Relief's local office in Wheaton, Illinois and, before that, with World Relief's partner organization in Managua, Nicaragua. He is the co-author of Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate (InterVarsity Press, 2009). Originally from Neenah, Wisconsin, Matthew and his wife Diana live in Glen Ellyn, Illinois and are expecting their first child in June.
Javier H. Valdés, Brooklyn, NY
Javier oversees the organizing and policy work at Make the Road New York in the areas of civic participation, civil rights, education, housing, environmental justice, LGBTQ, and immigration. He also supervises MRNY's youth programming, including school partnerships, Student Success Centers and after-school youth leadership development, as well as MRNY's administrative and operations functions. Previously, Javier served as the Director of Advocacy at the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC). Javier also led the Immigrant Advocacy Fellowship, a leadership program for emerging immigrant leaders in the city and state. Until August 2005, Javier was the Program Officer for Latin America at the Synergos Institute where he worked extensively in the US-Mexico border, the Dominican Republic and Ecuador. He holds a Master's Degree in Urban Planning from New York University and has two sons.
Bonnie M. Youn, Tucker, GA
Bonnie M. Youn is a recognized Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) community leader in Georgia. Ethnically Korean but born in the Philippines, she began practicing as an immigration attorney in 1997 and is principal of her own law firm, the Youn Law Group. She has worked tirelessly to provide a voice for immigrants and AAPI communities. She led teams that organized the 2013 Georgia AAPI Legislative Day, gathering the largest number of AAPIs in history at the State Capitol to meet and lobby elected officials. In 2012, she worked closely with the White House Initiative on AAPIs to organize its Southeast Regional Action Summit at Emory University in Atlanta. The Summit brought together over 500 participants to meet federal agency officials, culminating in a town hall meeting discussing concerns about immigration, healthcare and mental health issues, small business, and housing needs. Her current passions are advocating for more AAPI judges and political appointees, challenging state legislation that disenfranchises immigrants, and creating a legacy of a sustainable AAPI Commission for Georgia.