On Friday evening, more than 100 people gathered in the Wilden Lecture Hall to watch the 2006 HBO film “Walkout” — and to meet the woman who inspired the movie, Paula Crisostomo.
As one of the leaders of the 1968 East L.A. Walkouts, Crisostomo came to share her story of advocacy for the rights of Chicanos (Mexican-Americans). She highlighted the fight many undertook for a better future in U.S. education, particularly for Chicano students.
Crisostomo’s message merged perfectly with the third annual Latinas Serving Latinas conference at APU, which brought 70 high school girls from surrounding cities to get a taste of the “college experience.”
Even beyond the pursuit of improving the education system, Crisostomo sees the Walkouts as “a moment when Chicanos awoke to a new possibility of who they could be, what they could achieve and what their lives could look like.”
In retrospect, the mass protests — the largest for high school students in U.S. history — spurred on an “exciting, scary, exhilarating and tiring” time in Crisostomo’s life, when she was still fulfilling the roles of an older sister (in a family of 10) and a 17-year-old high school senior with a part-time job.
“Ordinary people can do extraordinary things,” Crisostomo said.
In between the screening of the movie and the Q&A session, Crisostomo accepted the invitation to be an honorary member of both LASA and APU’s chapter of Sigma Delta Pi (Phi Omicron), the National Hispanic Honor Society. Her appearance coincided with the celebration of the society’s 94th anniversary.