Sylvia Mendez (2016)

The Unity Council and Academic Senate proudly hosted Sylvia Mendez March 21 and 22 as part of the Rizza Lecture Series

Ms. Mendez spoke of her role in the desegregation of California public scchools, specifically in Orange County in 1947 when she was in the 3rd grade. Approximately 75 students, staff, faculty, administrators, and community members were present for her invited talk on March 22 at 11am in the Dining Center. Following her presentation, lunch was served and a lively discussion about race relations and diversity on campus and in the commuinity was held. Participants enjoyed the opportunity to interact with an American hero in an intimate and personal setting, which allowed Ms. Mendez to share her vibrant personality and enthusiasm for meeting with others, especially students. We thank her for her graciousness and continued committment to integration for current and future students in California and beyond. Below are pictures from the event. If you are interested in getting involved with the Unity Council at Cal Maritime please email us at


















Sylvia Mendez is the daughter of Gonzalo Mendez, a Mexican immigrant and Felicitas Mendez, a Puerto Rican immigrant,  who fought so that Sylvia could have an equal education through the landmark court case battle of Mendez v. Westminster, et al.

In 1943, students of Mexican descent were required to enroll in separate schools from Caucasian children. When Sylvia was in third grade, she and her siblings were denied admission to the segregated, white school" near their Orange County home. The Mendez family fought back. Their 1947 victory desegregated public schools in California and became an example for broader decisions, such as the Brown v Board of education.  

Sylvia Mendez's sole intent is to convey the importance of obtaining an education by encouraging students to stay in school and continue their education (Source).

To watch Mendez vs Westminster: For All the Children / Para Todos Los Ninos (Documentary film, 27 minutes) go to:


Related news and information

NPR piece: Before 'Brown V. Board,' Mendez Fought California's Segregated Schools


Desegregation of the American School System - Interview with CSU graduates and civil rights activists Terrance Roberts and Sylvia Mendez