In the San Diego Unified Schools, second semester progress reports come out in early June. As expected, before one of our weekly meetings with our Chavistas, our students were lined up to show me and other club leaders their grades. It was no surprise to us that out of 35 students, all but three had earned grade point averages of 4.0 or higher, along with nearly perfect attendance, and outstanding citizenship marks. I and the other club leaders were so proud of our students that we quickly organized a party featuring a Chavista delicacy, pizza!
The next week, our advisor for the Wilson Middle School Chavista Club, Mary Jane Zappia, pulled me aside to tell me privately that one of our students had earned the title of valedictorian for her eighth grade class. It had to remain a secret because our Chavista Stephanie, didn’t know she had been chosen. That day it dawned to me that a Chavista valedictorian at Wilson Middle School is no longer an isolated occasion. This year marks THREE years in a row that a Chavista has been valedictorian at Wilson. Since the founding of the Wilson club in 2013, the Chavistas have had outstanding GPA’s and notable scholastic recognition.
After getting this great news about the academic achievements of our Chavistas, I had to ask myself; Do the Chavez Service Clubs play a significant role in the academic success of our club members? I would argue that yes, we do.
In the founding stages of the Cesar Chavez Clubs, it was decided that we will accept students of all academic standings, because we understand that grades alone is not what makes a student special. Our goal is to build young leaders, and our special niche is teaching students to be confident in their ability to make a difference. That difference can be made on a large scale, like in their communities, or on a smaller scale, like with their grades.
Studies show that circumstances such as lower economic and citizenship status can have a negative impact on student outcomes. However, other studies prove that students with high confidence perform at higher levels than students with low confidence. Considering those findings, I can’t help but believe that our curriculum containing lessons in determination and the power of learning and education carries over into the high academic achievement of our Chavistas.
The connection between high confidence levels and positive student outcomes, combined with the 10 Cesar Chavez Values we teach are directly related to our students’ academic performance. For me, that makes the academic success of our Chavistas way more than just a coincidence.