Standing on the shoulders of giants


"We are organizers at heart. 
Most of us in the movement take great pride in being able to put things together." 
-César E. Chávez


The César E. Chávez Leadership conference began by individuals coming together to inspire, strengthen, and support our Latinx youth. Their tireless efforts and commitment to continuing the legacy of César E. Chávez has changed lives and made a difference in our community.

While they may not realize their impact, in our eyes, they are giants, we stand on their shoulders and we are grateful.

We proudly share their stories below: 

John Patrick Little 


February 6, 1926 – June 21, 2019 (Age 93)

John Patrick Little was born on February 6, 1929 in Portland, OR. John attended Central Catholic HS, Lincoln HS, and Columbia Preparatory. He received his BA and Masters Degrees from the University of Portland.

John served in the WWII and in the Korean War in the U.S. Army and Air Force. His work and life was dedicated to social uplift and social justice. He served as the first Director of Blanchet House of Hospitality, the first Director of Camp Howard, and was a teacher & Principal in Yacolt, WA. He and his family spent 5 years serving as Papal Volunteers in Ibarra, Ecuador from 1961-1966 organizing local artisans to build and create worker-owned co-ops.

Upon their return, John and his family settled in the Willamette Valley where he worked as the first Director of the Valley Migrant League in Hillsboro and Woodburn, a Board Member of the Colegio Cesar Chavez in Mt. Angel, and as the Director of Migrant Education in Marion/Polk Counties for 21 years. After retiring in 1991, John volunteered as Project Director for Mt. Angel and Woodburn Habitat for Humanity.

John also enjoyed leaving “donations” at the Casinos, fishing, playing golf with his compadres, and many travels with his brother Ted and MaryAnn Little.

On June 21, 2019, John left this world at Age 93, leaving behind a loving community of family and friends. He led a full life dedicated to social justice. His family and “compas” (among them Sonny Montes) are left with wonderful memories of a selfless, generous and loving man, father, and grandfather. We will miss you John!

“Que le vaya bien, pero de todos modos, vete” – John Patrick Little

Please click here for John little’s Obituary.

Sonny Montes

Celedonio (Sonny) Montes Jr was born in Weslaco, Texas, later arriving to Oregon in 1966. He worked as a farm worker for many years prior to and after arriving in Oregon. He worked for the Valley Migrant League (OEO poverty Program) from 1966 to 1971, starting as a program aide and eventually becoming the director for the Hillsboro Opportunity Center. In 1971, he left the VML and was hired at Mt. Angel College as the director of Ethnic affairs and Student Services Coordinator. He worked at Mt. Angel College/Colegio Cesar Chavez from 1971 to 1977, later becoming the Director of Administrative Affairs {President} at the school. In 1977, Sonny accepted a position with the Center for Bilingual Education, Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory in Portland, Oregon. He worked at NWREL from 1977 to 1982 providing training and technical assistance to school districts and education departments throughout Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Hawaii and Micronesia. From 1982 to 1986, Sonny was employed by Interface Consultants Inc. and later became the director of the National Origin Desegregation Assistance Center working with school districts that had been found out of compliance with OCR. In 1988, he accepted a position with the Portland Public Schools and worked with PPS as an administrator until his recent retirement in 2011.

Sonny founded Colegio Cesar Chavez and co-founded the Cesar E. Chavez Student Leadership Conference in 1990 and received the 2010 Distinguished Latino Educator Award from the Oregon Association of Latino Administrators. Sonny was also a member of the Cesar E. Chavez Boulevard Committee in Portland, Oregon that was successful in renaming 39th avenue in honor of Cesar Chavez. Lastly, Dr. Glenn Anthony May, a professor of history at the University of Oregon, has written a book entitled “Sonny Montes and Mexican American Activism in Oregon” a biography of Sonny and the broader story of Oregon’s Mexican American community during the 1960’s and 70’s.

Maria Alanis Ruiz

Maria was the first in her family to attend college. Over the years as a 1st generation student Maria was successful in completing her bachelor’s degree from the University of Oregon and her master’s from PSU in Education Policy, Foundation, and Administration.   

Maria Alanis Ruiz worked at PSU, as an Admissions Counselor/Minority Student Recruiter, Assistant Director of Admissions, where she brought and participated in many minority student recruitment conferences including Migrant Education Career Fair, Urban League Career Fair, Cesar Chavez Leadership Conference and many more.  In 1996 she became the Associate Director/Program Coordinator & later the Instructor (in 1999) for the Chicano/Latino Studies Program, Director of Latino Community & Student Relations at PSU for the last 31 years. 

She was part of the core faculty of Colegio Cesar Chavez and the Chicano/Latino Studies Certificate at PSU and worked closely with her community advisory board. The relationships she has developed through her community involvement, advisory committees have all strengthen and support the Chicano/Latino Certificate Program. As an administrator she continually finds ways of securing scholarship monies for students in the Chicano Latino Studies Program. She brings her unique experiences into the classroom as well as the support of students. During Maria’s tenure with the Chicano/Latino Studies Program, an increasing number of students have been recruited into the program. 

Maria brought the Chicano/Latino Studies certificate to the PSU Salem Center in 2000. During this time she worked with Chemeketa and Portland Community College to develop the 12 credits of lower division credits student need to earn the Certificate.   Her foresight in this development has created an automatic feeder programs for the Salem Center and Capital Center for obtaining the Chicano/Latino Certificate.  

Maria has had a long career in community involvement, including in the founding of the 5 de Mayo Fiesta at the Water Front in Portland, OR. Through her experiences and appointments, PSU has continually been the benefactor of her ability to coordinate events and participate in committees.  Two of her most outstanding achievements, which PSU has gained considerably from, the annual Chicano/Latino Studies Scholarship Gala that served only Chicano/Latino students in the certificate program, and later became the Chicano/Latino Scholarship Program Gala that served all Chicano/Latino students in all majors graduates and undergraduates.  The Chicano/Latino Scholarship Gala started in 1997 with the purpose of providing financial assistance to needed students. Over the years the Gala provided 550 scholarships.

Over the years Maria has advocated for PSU Chicano/Latino student groups from Chicano Student Union, La Raza, Hispanic Student Union, MECHA and Mujeres de la Raza. Through all her career at PSU, she has been able to help more than 10,000 Chicano/Latino students to achieve their education.

Jose & Kathy Romero


José Manuel Romero is a retired educator, a community activist for social justice and equality, and life-long advocate for the well-being of the Chicano/Latino community. Born and raised in Ventura County, north of Los Angeles, Jose comes from a family of ten; 7 brothers and 3 sisters. In the fall of 1970, he moved to Eugene, OR where he pursued his advanced degree in Political Science at the University of Oregon.

Jose has been married to his soulmate and inspiration, Catalina (Kathy) for 57 years. Through the years, Kathy’s support, contributions and active participation has helped him grow and move forward with determination and confidence. Both Jose and Kathy are proud parents of three successful, professional bilingual/multicultural children, and grandparents to five adorable grand kids.

Both parents worked in the fields, packing sheds, and orchards. Over the years, Jose worked in the fields, drove trucks, operated farm equipment, assembled cars, aircraft machinist, and more. In addition, he also served as a Peace Corps Volunteer, a college student tutor, a Latino historian and college/public school administrator, and taught Chicano studies at Lane CC and Colegio Cesar Chavez. Jose also served as Director of Academic Affairs ((Co-President) at Colegio Cesar Chavez and supervised bilingual teacher candidates as adjunct faculty member at Portland State University Graduate School of Education. In the fall of 2006, Jose retired as Director of Special Programs at Woodburn Public Schools.

Due to his hard work, passion, and dedication, Jose has received the following honors and awards in recognition of his service:

  • Latin American Studies department award, Cal State University, 1970

  • Ford Foundation graduate study fellowship, 1970- 75

  • Educational Policy Fellowship Program, Kellogg Foundation, Wash. D.C.

  • Lifetime Achievement Award, Oregon Dept of Education, Migrant Ed.

  • Jose M. Romero Endowment Scholarship, Portland State University.

  • Chicanos of Oregon Golfers’ Association (Ch.O.G.A.) at CECLC

  • Lifetime Achievement Award at 2011 Dr. Martin Luther King Day, Portland, OR

Click here to watch the Interview with Jose Romero from NW Film Center.

A special thank you to all of our founders!

¡Si se Puede!