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South Coast high school students create tribute to civil rights icon, commissioning giant mural

Some Ventura High School students spearheaded an effort to create a mural honoring civil right icon Dolores Huerta.
Some Ventura High School students spearheaded an effort to create a mural honoring civil rights icon Dolores Huerta.

Dolores Huerta's legacy honored with huge mural on Ventura High School campus.

It’s art, social justice, and history all rolled up in one.

A new 45 foot high, 115 foot long mural honoring labor leader, and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta has been unveiled on the South Coast.

It’s a remarkable project. But, what makes it even more amazing is the fact it was the idea of some high school students, who commissioned the work.

About 150 students, along with staff and faculty members gathered on the west side of the Ventura High School gym to celebrate completion of the artwork.

"This came about when we started a Latino rights club at the beginning of the year," said Ventura High School student Mateo Navarro, who helped spearhead the mural project. "Our first project in our club was we wanted to show an influential Latino leader."

"Cesar Chavez gets a lot of credit for the farmworkers strikes in the 60's and 70's, but a lot of time people overlook Dolores Huerta's impact, which was almost as huge," said Navarro. "She helped formulate the UFW...and she is still very active today...LGBTQ+ rights, African-American rights."

Students raised a good chunk of the $14,000 needed for the project with fundraisers, and community service projects. The student body and the school itself also contributed. They commissioned Chicago-based artist Maricio Ramirez to design, and create the mural.

"It's's on the side of a gym at Ventura High School," said Ramirez. "It's a kaleidoscope of colors that needs to be seen."

The new mural is 45 feet high, and more than 160 feet long.
The new mural is 45 feet high, and 115 feet long.

Students involved in the mural project, like Lea Murphy, say they are proud to honor such an inspirational leader. "This shows light on our students whose family members are field workers, and immigrants," said Murphy.

Ventura High Principal Marissa Cervantes says with the return to the classroom this year, after the disruption caused by the pandemic, diversity and inclusiveness were major goals this school year. She says the organizers of the mural project really made something of the concept.

"It was student driven...they came to us with an idea...they had the rationale behind it we were able to fully support," said Cervantes.

They had to jump through a number of hoops, but project organizer Mateo Navarro says it’s amazing to look up, and see the finished project.

"It's easy to talk about logistics," said Navarro. "It's hard to put into words the big, full, grounding feeling whenever I look up at this wall. It makes me a little emotional to talk about it."

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.