Luis Perales believes young people and sustainability hold keys to the future of the Earth.
In the past five years, he has become a champion for both - a feat that will be recognized when he receives the Chicanos Por La Causa Spirit Award at the upcoming 30th Anniversary Annual Fundraising Dinner.
"I try to engage youth, since they will inherit what is here and they need to care if they are going to preserve what we have," said Perales, a teacher with Toltecalli Academy, a Chicanos Por La Causa charter school.
Perales is convinced that many students have become apathetic to their surroundings due to the proliferation of electronic devices.
He wants them to re-engage with their environment, and teaches them to see the benefits of that engagement through projects such as composting, gardening, neighborhood cleanup, recycling, water harvesting and community service.
"If we focus on individual empowerment and get together with others who try to get work done, we can be a collection of individuals who have a positive social impact and create positive social change," Perales said.
"It starts with something as simple as becoming aware and starting to decide on paths of action."
Positive social impact has always been a priority for Chicanos Por La Causa, according to Vice President Tillie Arvizu.
Established locally in 1980, the nonprofit community development corporation is committed to building stronger, healthy communities by serving as a leading advocate-coalition builder and direct-service provider.
The statewide organization provides economic development help and social services ranging from housing assistance to Parenting Arizona, which offers parenting skills and intervention for families in crisis, as well as about $65,000 annually in direct emergency financial assistance.
Youth services include charter schools currently serving more than 200 local students and their families; scholarships; Corazon de Aztlan, a youth leadership program; Migrant Headstart, an education program for preschool children of migrant workers; and an annual community Christmas celebration that provides gifts for about 7,000 children.
Services are available to all, regardless of gender or ethnic background.
Overall, Perales hopes service projects will help build strong leaders. He believes empowering youths to become students of the world will help overcome disparities in environmental and social issues, eventually leading to a healthier planet.
"The idea is to bring people together and say that every day, they have an individual ability to make things better," he said. "Focusing on service and giving back to others gives us a feeling of hope and gives the community inspiration to continue on and mitigate the tough times we are in."
If You Go
What: 30th Anniversary Chicanos Por La Causa Annual Fundraising Dinner.
When: 6 p.m. June 10.
Where: Desert Diamond Casino Diamond Entertainment Center, Pima Mine Road and Interstate 19.
Cost: $200 per person; $1,500 per table of 10.
Festivities include no-host cocktails, dinner, a video presentation and an awards ceremony honoring Francisco Aguilar with the Lorraine Lee Legacy Award and Luis Perales with the Chicanos Por La Causa Spirit Award.
All proceeds benefit Chicanos Por La Causa social and educational programs.
For tickets or more information: Go to www.cplctucson.org or call 882-0018.
Contact freelance writer Loni Nannini at firstname.lastname@example.org