“If you teach ethnic studies to students, teach them about their culture, get them involved, they start caring more about their education and are able to succeed,” says Johanis Tadeo, organizer of Springfield/Eugene’s City Wide MEChA and community organizer at Community Alliance of Lane County.
Tadeo organizes for the local chapter of Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán, a nation-wide student-run organization. MEChA focuses on education and history, specifically Chicano history — a curriculum that isn’t taught in most classrooms.
“I was contacted by a student a year ago, around this time, they were talking about how they were facing a lot of racism and discrimination,” Tadeo says. Meeting the Latino students at Thurston High School was life changing. The students had no support at all and didn’t know what their identities were, he says.
Tadeo was later contacted by students at Springfield, Willamette and Churchill high schools as well as Briggs and Cascade middle schools — and all, he says, were facing similar problems. So he decided to expand the Thurston program to City Wide MEChA to accommodate these students.
“We have a center thanks to the Church of Brethren, which lets us use their facility. Upstairs we have an office as well as a library and a game room,” Tadeo says. “We offer tutoring services, we help them with math, science and history. We also teach classes there. We create a safe space there that feels welcoming — where they can be themselves and express a lot of their issues and concerns.”