Something about the well-worn path from César Chávez Elementary School to Davis High School seems to produce a unique level of social consciousness among students — and the current crop of DHS seniors in particular.
Four members of the Class of 2013 will graduate having been recognized by the city of Davis for their humanitarian efforts, including this year’s winners of the Thong H. Huynh young humanitarian awards — Daniel Tutt and Antonio deLoera-Brust.
Tutt and deLoera-Brust will be recognized by the City Council on Tuesday evening, following in the footsteps of classmates Anna Sturla and Henry Anker, who received the awards last year. All four were in the same grade at Chávez many years ago and remain friends today.
The Huynh awards are named after a Davis High student who was killed in a racially motivated attack on campus 30 years ago. They recognize achievements by local residents in human and civil rights and are bestowed annually in five categories: lifetime achievement, civil rights advocacy, excellence in community involvement by a for-profit or non-profit entity, public servant of the year and young humanitarian.
This year’s young humanitarians share much in common besides a history and friendship — both have combined their individual talents and interests with a desire to make a difference in the local Latino community, including by putting in many hours as volunteers teaching children at the Madison Migrant Center.
There, Tutt and deLoera-Brust have formed lasting friendships with the children of migrant farm workers — children for whom such relationships can be a rarity, as their families move around so much.
“It’s one part of their lives that’s permanent,” deLoera-Brust noted.
Both Tutt and deLoera-Brust have taught English, math, science and more to students there during the summer.
For deLoera-Brust, volunteering at the center has special meaning.
Most of the volunteers at the migrant center are female, he noted, and few are Latino.
“They do tons and tons of important work, and it couldn’t happen without them,” he said. “But I’m someone the kids can connect with (differently), for them to have a different image of what a Latino male can look like.”
A longtime active member of the Acme Theatre Company, deLoera-Brust plans to bring his passion for theater to the migrant school this summer when he and fellow Acme members will introduce a new theater component to the curriculum.
“It’s the first year Acme will be out there,” he said. “And I’m hoping if it goes well, I can leave a structure for it.”
He’ll be leaving it only temporarily, of course. Though deLoera-Brust is off to Loyola Marymount University in the fall to major in film, he plans to return to Davis next summer to work at the migrant center again.
And he expects the experiences of young Latinos in America to inform his future work in the film industry.
“There are so many kids out there with so many stories to tell,” he said. “That’s what I’m going to do with my life.”
Classmate Tutt shares deLoera-Brust’s passion for storytelling, though his interest lies in journalism.
In addition to his work at the migrant center, Tutt has used the power of the pen the past three years to inform the high school community about the Latino community in Davis.
He partnered with last year’s Huynh award recipient, Sturla, to write a series of articles for the Davis High newspaper, The HUB, focusing on the Latino community, including one about the migrant center and another on how Latinos sometimes form their own soccer leagues in Davis because they feel they cannot overcome cultural barriers. The series won the Robert F. Kennedy award for high school journalism.
As editor-in-chief of The HUB this year, Tutt, 18, has covered everything from César Chávez day to the Breaking the Silence of Racism event in town.
Classmate Anker, who also received the award last year, nominated Tutt for the young humanitarian award, saying Tutt, “never hesitates to take on controversial subject matter, and his articles always spark debate among high school students about issues that would have otherwise been ignored.”
Anker nominated deLoera-Brust as well, calling him “one of the most passionate high school students I know when it comes to humanitarian issues.”
In addition to his contributions to the migrant center, deLoera-Brust served this year as communications director for the Latino student union, Latinos Unidos, at Davis High, where he participated in a public debate about affirmative action and organized the school’s anti-discrimination week.
The duo will be honored in a ceremony beginning at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Community Chambers at City Hall, 23 Russell Blvd. Other award recipients also being honored with Thong Hy Huynh awards include three individuals and three organizations.
Gay Powers will be recognized in the lifetime achievement category; Diane Evans will receive the award for civil rights advocacy; and Yolo County Public Defender Tracie Olsen will be recognized as public servant of the year.
For excellence in community involvement, the Davis Odd Fellows Lodge, Davis Schools Orchestral Music Association and the Robert and Yinnette Chang Family Trust Foundation will receive Huynh awards.
Tutt and deLoera-Brust see the awards as both fitting and important — as much today as 30 years ago.
Noting recent hate crimes that have taken place in Davis, deLoera-Brust said, “it just signifies that there is still work to be done.”
And these two young men plan to continue being part of that work, each in his own way, telling stories to effect positive change.
— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at [email protected] or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy