San Francisco renames school after farmworker rights activist Dolores Huerta

Labor leader and farmworker rights activist Dolores Huerta was honored on Friday at a San Francisco school that was recently renamed in her honor.

The 89-year-old was on hand for the celebration of the newly named Dolores Huerta Elementary. It was formerly known as Fairmount School in the city’s Glen Park neighborhood, which has served students since 1864. 

“I feel very, very honored,” Huerta said. “I feel proud to have a school named after me in the great city of San Francisco, a city that I’ve connected with since I was a teenager.”

The San Francisco Board of Education unanimously approved the school’s name change in August 2018. The school was renamed in October 2018. Today the school chose to honor the Latina who has dedicated her life to fighting for those oppressed or disenfranchised.

In 1962, Huerta co-founded the National Farm Workers Association with Cesar Chavez and helped organize the Delano grape strike in 1965. Huerta is also credited with coining the phrase, “Sí Se Puede,” or “yes we can.” She has since been active in various causes in continues to run her nonprofit, the Dolores Huerta Foundation.

SF Board of Education Vice President Mark Sanchez said he would not take credit for the renaming of the school, but it is something he thought and dreamt about for a long time.

“I grew up not eating grapes because my mom joined the grape strike when I was a kid in the 1970’s,” Sanchez said. “My mom taught me who Dolores Huerta was, who Cesar Chavez was and what the importance of their campaigns were.”

Children at the elementary school sang songs and dedicated a mural to Huerta. She stayed to sign posters and greet children and parents. 

Huerta said she still receives monthly payments from the city after she was beaten by police officers in 1988 in a demonstration near Union Square where vice-president George Bush was making a speech. The mayor at the time, Art Agnos, was a longtime political ally of Huerta and ordered an investigation into the attack.

“I owe the City of San Francisco. Thank you for not only sustaining me in the work that I do in organizing, but also for honoring me with a school to make sure that everybody knows education has to be number one to save our democracy,” Huerta said.