Courtesy of the Mexican American Committee on Education:
Fifty years ago in San Benito County, a group of dedicated volunteers came together and planned a small dance to raise funds for a student who had a desire to further his education and attend college – for which Sergio Martinez attended UC Santa Cruz and became an educator who returned to give back to his community.
The group together planned what became the Annual Cinco de Mayo Mexican American Committee on Education Scholarship Banquet. The event attendance increased from a small group to a sold-out crowd of 500 attendees. The success story of MACE Committee, as it became known to this community, was due to the efforts of many who dedicated many volunteer hours to assure the success of this grassroots organization.
The diversity of the dedicated volunteers 50 years ago continued throughout decades as the MACE Committee continued to partner with other organizations and agencies to assure that funds were raised each year and our goal of granting scholarships remained a priority for this grassroots local organization.
Reading the original minutes of a MACE meeting in 1970, we find community members whose names such as Gutierrez, Solorio, Alvarez, Holte, Candelaria, Castellano, Cruz, Flores, Fata, Garcia, Garrett, Reyes, Casanega, Denny, Bazan, Lowry, St. Louis, Munoz, Hoffman, Hoover, Butterfield, Ortiz, Cordero, Robinson, Rose, Ruiz, Vigil, Works, Young, and Zanger appear on the rosters of the MACE originating committee. We are forever thankful for their vision of what the MACE Committee would become.
As years passed, membership names changed, new faces appeared, but the goal remained: Every new member honored the mission set forth by the grass-roots organization; the focus never changed. Throughout the years, new ideas came into play, new ways to raise additional funding. A positive change occurred when the event began selling out prior to the event date.
The event soon became the premier cultural and popular community event which attracted many dignitaries to include Jaime Escalante, the great educator who influenced the film “Stand and Deliver”, Antonio and Cecilia Burciaga, Stanford Univeristy, Dr. Robert Cruz, Hispanic University, Dr. Eugene Garcia, Dean UC Berkeley, Maria Tostado, Principal, Garfield High School and the Garfield Student Mariachi, John Trasvina, President of MALDEF, Rocky Delgadillo, Los Angeles Attorney, Chris Arriola, President, CA La Raza Lawyers and many other key Latino leaders, local elected officials and legislators including then Governor Gray Davis, Senator Richard Polanco, and our own Luis Valdez, Artistic Director of El Teatro Campesino. Emcees ranged up to KNTV Rigo Chacon and Isabel Duron, Anchor, News 36.
MACE entertainment topped the list when Little Joe y la Familia and “Tierra” entertained our MACE guests during these years.
While MACE continued the efforts of students staying in school, the statistics showed that Latino students represented the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population, which accounted for a quarter of all new entrants into the labor force. While statistics showed these facts, we knew very well that without organizations such as the MACE Committee, some of our students would not have a chance at all in receiving monetary awards for the purpose of higher education, nor having the motivating support students receive from the membership.
MACE knowing these statistics began contacting colleges and universities admission department to encourage acceptance of our students into these educational institutions and became successful when representatives of these colleges and universities were invited to participate in the Annual MACE Scholarship Banquets for which they gladly accepted.
While we could not disregard statistics, MACE also challenged the drop-out rate and encouraged the hiring of many new educators in our school districts and assisted in recruiting Latino educators, and many today remain in our community as retired educators continuing to work with our students.
The community as a whole made an investment in our youth, as organizations such as MACE and LULAC continued to fund educational opportunities for our students.
We could not do this without the continued support of this community who attended the MACE Annual Cinco de Mayo events and sponsors who stood by our side in assuring our banquet booklet included their ads and sponsorships. Our volunteers with their involvement in committees who supported our efforts by assuring our students the opportunity to continue their educational journey. Including in our special thanks go to attorneys who organized MACE as a nonprofit organization, Tim McCarthy and Anna Caballero and all the MACE former officers who led this organization at one time or another.
The goal of the Mexican-American Committee on Education has fulfilled their original mission and commitment and after 50 years we have many to thank for the successful journey in granting scholarships to students who have now made a difference in someone else’s lives. This grassroots organization that began with humble beginnings raised in 50 years a total of $442,200 and awarded 530 scholarships to deserving students assisting them to go on to higher education.
At the end of our story, this is an accomplishment that is ending a successful educational organization’s story.
As we end this era of giving, we encourage everyone to continue to support and give to organizations such as LULAC who will continue the mission of the Mexican American Committee on Education which in 1970 had a vision and a dream which assured our students an educational opportunity followed by a career that would make them successful in life.
As always in our annual banquet program we bid everyone farewell until we would see them again the following year, in this case, we bid our final farewell with MACE’s lasting words of Gracias y “Vaya con Dios”.
Al Gutierrez, Founding Member of MACE
Mickie Luna, MACE Organizing Coordinator
File photo courtesy of Juan Robledo at a San Benito High School graduation