On August 3rd, high school student Melissa Zavala of Salinas, California, joined Rep. Lofgren of California’s 18th district to announce House Resolution 587. If passed, the resolution – inspired by Zavala’s own advocacy for farmworker appreciation – would establish a designated National Farmworker Awareness Week.
Zavala first spoke out on the challenges that agricultural workers face when she participated in Project Soapbox, a national public speaking program created by Mikva Challenge that encourages students from across the country to speak up on issues most important to them.
“This is important to me as my parents, along with the parents of most of my classmates, are field workers,” Zavala said. “They should be given credit and respect for the valuable job they do. Folks with comfortable desk jobs don’t usually acknowledge the fact that their fruits and vegetables are handpicked and packed by these hardworking individuals.”
After participating in Project Soapbox in her classroom, Zavala was chosen to join 100 other young people for Mikva Challenge’s first National Youth Summit in Washington, DC. She gave her powerful speech at Soapbox Nation, the kick-off to the National Youth Summit. The following day, Zavala and her peers visited Capitol Hill to advocate for the cause, meeting with Representative Zoe Lofgren. Moved by Zavala’s advocacy and inspired by her idea to create a National Farmworkers Awareness Week, Representative Lofgren’s office reached out to Zavala to partner on the effort.
“Earlier this year during a student meeting, Melissa, the daughter of farmworkers in the Salinas Valley, pointed out that there is no official national week to honor farmworkers and recognize the grueling work put in to sustain America’s food supply. She’s right, and that should change,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren. “I am proud to have worked with Melissa on this legislation to commend the contributions of farmworkers and designate National Farmworker Awareness Week. It’s a collaboration that showcases the importance of the next generation of leaders getting involved in the lawmaking process and the value of the millions of people who work the fields in our country every day. I thank Melissa for her partnership, and I urge my colleagues to support this, frankly, overdue recognition.”