Civic Engagement










The Dolores Huerta Foundation provides organizing training and resources to rural, low income, communities. Our community organizing model engages residents in a process of determining and prioritizing their community needs, trains them to speak directly with organizational leaders and public officials, and provides them with a platform to advocate for desired changes. Our active base calls themselves the Vecinos Unidos (United Neighbors).

The Dolores Huerta Foundation (DHF) has made great strides in recruiting, training, and developing grassroots volunteers to engage in voter outreach and education efforts. The number of youth and community members actively engaging their elected officials on local governing boards and school districts has increased dramatically.  Since 2016, DHF has expanded its scope and reach of voters, community members, elected officials, and the general public.


From November 2017 to August 2018, DHF organizers continued to grow the volunteer base of the Dolores Huerta Foundation by establishing four new Vecinos Unidos(Neighbors United) chapters. In Parlier and Sanger in Fresno County, the new chapters were formalized at the end of 2017. Greenfield (Southeast Bakersfield) and California City are the newest Vecinos Unidoschapters in Kern County established in 2018.

The California City chapter is the first predominantly African-American chapter. The DHF has been working closely with youth and parents in the Mojave Unified School District (MUSD) to address their discipline crisis. MUSD has the highest suspension rate of African American students in the state, 81% of African American students are suspended or expelled.  Seventy percent of the population in California City is made up of people of color (Latinos and African Americans) while all representatives on the MUSD school board are Caucasian.

Each of the nine Vecinos Unidoschapters continue to host monthly community forums to educate Vecinos on various topics and provide trainings and updates. In August, 2018 DHF hosted its first Vecinos Unidos Leadership Conference which brought 140 youth and adult leaders together from the nine Vecinos Unidoschapters in Kern, Tulare, and Fresno counties. It was a memorable and successful convening that DHF plans to make an annual event.

  • Schools and Communities First Campaign with California Calls

In October 2017, DHF hosted a community forum on Schools and Communities First to educate the public on the campaign to revise corporate property tax loopholes established through Proposition 13 in the 1970’s.  Panelists from Bakersfield College, League of Women Voters, Cal State University Bakersfield, California Calls and Dolores Huerta Foundation shed light on the importance of this initiative.  The diverse audience of 70 attendees included civic groups, labor leaders, members of the local chamber of commerce, educators, and students.

In October – November 2017, in collaboration with California Calls, the DHF contacted 3,972 individuals and identified 2,780 supportive voters. Canvassers reached 1,044 supporters who signed the petition to support the Schools and Communities First campaign, formerly Make It Fair. The civic engagement team recruited 27 volunteers for phone banking and canvassing.

  • Schools and Communities First – Signature Gathering

From March to July 2018, the DHF staff and 136 volunteers collected a total of 3,081 signatures for the petition to qualify the Schools and Communities First Initiativefor the November 2020 ballot. The DHF surpassed its goal of 3,000 signatures.

  • Bakersfield City School District Special Election

The DHF promoted the Bakersfield City School District (BCSD) special election on April 10th, 2018.  Volunteer canvassers engaged in voter outreach and education to urge community members to vote in the special election. Voters were invited to attend a candidate forum on March 15thhosted by DHF.  Twenty-nine individuals attended the candidates’ forum and 2 of the four candidates participated in the forum. During this campaign, 35 volunteers knocked on 1,140 doors, spoke to 490 voters, and identified 288 voters who committed to vote.

  • Outreach in Congressional District 21 with Million Voter Project

From March to May 2018, the DHF collaborated with the Million Voter Project and Latino Interactive Voter Engagement Project  (LIVE) for a voter outreach campaign in Congressional District 21 (CD-21). Voters were encouraged to vote on June 5th, the CA Primary Election and were educated on important federal issues such as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 and the White House Budget.  DHF recruited and trained 16 canvassers and 23 volunteers for this campaign. They collected over 600 postcards from voters to Congressman Valadao expressing their disappointment with his support for the tax plan, as well as his support to cut health care services, leaving millions of Californians without health insurance.  Additionally, canvassers collected 830 emails and 5,233 cell phone numbers from voters.


Contact Goal Spring 2018 Contacts Primary 2018 Contacts Primary 2018 GOTV Contacts Primary 2018 Doors Knocked Unduplicated Contacts to Date % Contact Goal Reached
CD 21 26,838 9,003 13,208 3,367 21,226 31,858 118.7%


  • Youth VOTE (YVOTE) Campaign

The DHF participated in a voter engagement campaign for the 2018 Primary Election with YVOTE from May 8th– June 5thwith a team of 5 canvassers. The canvassers reached out to youth of color to remind them of the California Primary Election, they also identified voters on important issues such as immigration, affordable housing, gun violence, and school funding. The script educated youngvoters on the fact that the majority of people who vote in California are older and wealthier, but that millennials are the fastest growing population in the state, and because of this, their vote can make a significant difference.

The campaign team reached 1,055 contacts and identified 809 supportive young voters. Canvassers reached 743 persons in the last four days of the primary election. Thirty individuals were registered to vote.

In collaboration with Freedom Summer 2018, the DHF implemented Voting Rights and Voter Registration trainings at California State University Bakersfield, Golden Valley, Bakersfield, East Bakersfield, Foothill, and Liberty High Schools and West Hills College in Lemoore, CA in collaboration with Voto Latino.


Board of Supervisors – DHF worked with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) in 2016 to file a lawsuit against the Kern County Board of Supervisors under the federal Voting Rights Act.  Kern County’s Latino population has been disenfranchised in the local democratic process for the past 20 years.  In 2018 Latinos comprised over 50% of the population of Kern County yet only had one Latino majority supervisorial district.  In 2011 the Board of Supervisors voted to adopt an illegal district map. The lawsuit concluded with the U.S. District Court Judge Dale Drozd ordering the County to work with MALDEF to draw new lines. During the process DHF submitted maps and data for consideration. As of March 26, 2018 the Kern County Board of Supervisors now has two Latino-majority districts. Candidates will be running to fill the open positions in the Midterm Elections in November 2018 foregoing the Primary Election due to the timing of the court’s decision.

The Kern High School District (KHSD)is the largest high school district in California with a student population of  over 70% being students of color.  In 2011 KHSD adopted boundaries with only one effective Latino-majority district. In spring of 2018, the Dolores Huerta Foundation approached the KHSD to address the lack of representation of South Kern on the Board of Trustees and the dilution of the Latino vote. The DHF sought an additional Latino-majority district and pressured the KHSD board to redistrict ahead of the 2020 census. To prevent a lawsuit, the KHSD held public hearings to redraw district lines.

The DHF worked diligently to educate the community about the significance of redistricting. DHF’s GIS (Geographic Information Systems) Analyst provided presentations in Arvin, Lamont, and Bakersfield to inform Vecinos Unidos,ally organizations, and the general public about the redistricting process, Latino population data, citizen voting age population, district lines, current maps, and proposed maps. DHF’s GIS team created 3-4 new district maps for the board to consider, these maps created two effective Latino-majority districts and unseated some current trustee members.  Meanwhile, the KHSD’s maps proposed keeping all trustees in their districts, despite the fact that three trustees live within a three-mile radius from each other in Northwest Bakersfield. These trustees are white males who live in the richest area of Bakersfield while 70% of KHSD students are of color and are low-income.

DHF partnered with the Kern Education Justice Collaborative and South Kern Building Healthy Communities initiative to implement community outreach and education efforts. DHF conducted 14 community presentations on redistricting and received 16 press mentions in local television and newspapers. Dozens of community leaders and residents attended multiple board meetings to express support of the DHF maps.

In May 2018, the KHSD Board of Trustees unanimously voted (5-0) to adopt their own map, it was then sent to the Kern County Committee on School District Organization (KCCSDO) to ratify the vote. DHF and community members made a last plea to the KCCSDO to reject the map due to racial injustice.  The eleven members of the KCCSDO voted 8-3 in favor of the KHSD map for implementation (the three no votes were cast from the only trustees of color on the board).

DHF is preparing to file its second lawsuit against Kern High School District to pursue equal representation on the KHSD Board. (The first lawsuit for racial bias in discipline policies and practices resulted in district wide reforms). The DHF continues showcasing its GIS data and mapping in the community to demonstrate to the community the evidence behind local communities’ inequities in an effort to achieve justice.

DHF is also planning to sue the Tulare County Board of Supervisors for violation of the Federal Voting Rights Act. The County has one Latino-majority district only by population not by Citizen Voting Age Population or Voter Registration data.

  • Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Mapping

The DHF has increased its capacity to utilize GIS software to inform strategic decisions for voter targeting and outreach. DHF has extensive voter analysis throughout the Central Valley.  DHF’s GIS Consultant recently created an online legislative look-up tool that informs the user which (school, county, water, assembly, senate, congressional) districts they belong to based on their address.  This tool exceeds similar look up tools currently available. The DHF will soon launch this new tool for the public to utilize.

The DHF plans to expand its GIS team to continue addressing redistricting issues in Kern and throughout the Central Valley. GIS mapping makes data visible and easy to comprehend the social inequities in Central Valley communities. DHF has forged a growing partnership with Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI), the premier GIS mapping software company, to enhance the organization’s GIS capacity. In July 2018, DHF participated in Esri’s weeklong conference that hosted the largest gathering of GIS professionals in the country. The DHF gave a presentation and had a booth showcasing its use of GIS data and mapping for social justice in Kern County.

DHF has gained attention for its work with GIS mapping and redistricting. The organization believes these tools will help DHF as it implements a comprehensive Census outreach campaign with grassroots volunteers as well as the redistricting that will follow the Census count.

DHF is interested in exploring partnerships to further enhance its mission and expand its GIS (Geographic Information Systems) programs. DHF is uniquely positioned to provide GIS and mapping services to other non-profit organizations that do not have the staff and technological resources. The DHF’s goal is to provide readily accessible tools to organizations the foundation collaborates with to allow them to enhance their community-related projects.

DHF will continue to integrate GIS mapping and data applications into the organization’s technological infrastructure to use data and mapping to equip and enhance DHF’s organizing and civic engagement efforts such as integrative voter education, as well as implement outreach campaigns in low response areas for the 2020 Census


In partnership with the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center, the DHF is currently launching the Youth and Family Civic Engagement Initiative to increase civic participation among low-income, disenfranchised youth and their families to reduce racial and socio-economic disparities. Through evidence-based best practices, the YFCE Initiative trains youth and family members for meaningful leadership roles and civic participation.

A leadership cohort of 200 low-income, diverse young people will be recruited and selected from local middle and high schools (in Kern, Fresno, Alameda & Contra Costa counties). They will attend intensive civics and leadership classes offered during all school breaks, some evenings and Saturdays. In addition to the classes, cohort members participate in leadership exchanges, public speaking, community advocacy, and they take on leadership roles in community improvement and civic projects.

Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP)

In Spring 2018, DHF’s Vecinos Unidos were active in advocating for education reform. DHF’s Education Department provided a total of 18 LCAP trainings to prepare Vecinos for the Local Control Accountability Plan (budgeting) input process. Vecinos Unidos(Neighbors United) Chapters representing 10 school districts. A total of 207 participants advocated at board meetings and/or public hearings, a total of 74 recommendations were submitted to the school districts, and 37 out of the 74 LCAP recommendations were adopted for the 2018-19 school year. Recommendations included increased funding to implement translation services, enhance Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS),the  implementation of cultural awareness curriculum and training, more counselors, and the hiring of more teachers of color.


Organizing For Action’s Bay Area chapter

 On July 7 & 8, 2018, the DHF partnered with Organizing For Action’s Bay Area chapter to organize trainings with Vecinos Unidosmembers.  The trainings included local effective conversations, volunteer coordination, and power mapping.  DHF hosted three trainings and recruited participants to attend the four hour trainings. Fifty-six youth and community members attended the Sanger training, 26 participants in Delano, and 25 in Arvin. Many of the Vecinos have continued to receive weekly training from DHF and OFA to prepare for the midterm elections in November.

Martin Luther King Jr Freedom Center (MLKJFC) Collaboration

Following the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center (MLKJFC) Youth Boot Camp partnership in the Summer of 2017, the Dolores Huerta Foundation and MLKJFC developed a plan to secure resources to fully implement the MLKJFC youth leadership model in the Central Valley. In Spring 2018, youth and staff from both organizations began meeting with legislators to secure champions to support state funding for this endeavor.  After months of meeting with legislators and providing testimonies at Assembly and Senate subcommittee hearings, the California state legislature approved a $2 million budget allocation in June 2018 to formalize a statewide Youth and Family Civic Engagement Initiative. Dozens of youth from Kern and Alameda counties participated in the advocacy efforts. This new program will work with youth and their families from Alameda, Contra Costa, Kern, and Fresno counties.

In July 2018, the DHF hosted a group of 30 MLKJFC youth from the Bay Area and the State of Washington for the third consecutive year.  DHF recruited four young Latinas from Kern County to participate in the annual six week intensive boot camp. Three DHF staff members began receiving training and coaching from MLKJFC while working with the youth during their travels from Washington, Oregon, the Bay Area and Kern County. During their short time in Kern County, 30 youth canvassers received voter registration and door-to-door canvassing training from the DHF’s Civic Engagement Organizer.  The youth knocked on 345 doors, spoke to 136 people, and registered 13 voters in the Bakersfield area. 


censusIt’s important to understand the demographics of an area to ensure proper political representation. In 2010, the US Census Bureau and the California Endowment enlisted the help of DHF to reach out to “hard to count” residents. Vecinos Unidos along with DHF staff and volunteers went door to door encouraging residents to fill out their Census forms. DHF hosted 15 community presentations, trained 200 volunteers (from Vecinos Unidos and Spring Break Students), and knocked on 3,000 doors in one day. The Vecinos assisted 1,000 families with Census questionnaires throughout the campaign. In addition, President Huerta did a speaking tour in Oregon and Washington targeting Latino Communities and encouraging them to participate in the Census. She also recorded Public Service Announcements. In collaboration with MALDEF, DHF organized public workshops to educate local communities of color about the impact of redistricting and trained individuals to provide input to the California State Citizens Redistricting Commission. Working with data from the 2010 Census, DHF seeks fair representation of our congressional, state, county, and school districts.


your-vote-countsVOTER REGISTRATION: Voter registration is an ongoing program with DHF thereby increasing voter turnout. In conjunction with California Calls, a non-partisan state-wide coalition, DHF registered over 1,000 new voters in Kern County in May & June, 2011. In addition, we helped 1,400 existing voters transition to permanent absentee ballots to increase voter participation. California Calls is an independent network of 27 community based organizations in 10 Counties including San Diego, San Bernardino, Riverside, Los Angeles, Ventura, Kern, Tulare, Fresno, Santa Clara and Alameda Counties. The participating agencies in the Central Valley that anchor the work in Kern, Tulare, and Fresno counties call ourselves “The Central Valley Alliance for Economic Equity”. Collectively, we were successful in speaking to over 26,000 voters and registering over 3,000 voters in the Valley.

Central Valley Alliance for Economic Opportunity Partners:

  • Voter Registration Center for Race Poverty and the Environment Communities for a New California
  • Dolores Huerta Foundation
  • San Joaquin Valley Latino Environmental Advancement & Policy Project
  • Union de Exbraceros y Inmigrantes
  • United Domestic Workers

(see links to learn more about partner organizations)

registrationVOTER EDUCATION / GET OUT THE VOTE (GOTV): During election times, Vecinos Unidos, DHF staff and volunteers participate in non-partisan GOTV campaigns to increase voter turnout. In the 2010 election, the DHF played an instrumental roll in passing Proposition 25, which reduced the minimum vote from 2/3 to a simple majority to pass the state budget and requires state legislators to forfeit pay if the budget is not passed in a timely manner. In addition, we were effective in defeating Proposition 23 which would have repealed AB32, a piece of legislation that mandates cutting greenhouse gas emissions within the state. In 2008, we urged voters to oppose Anti-gay initiative (Prop 8) which eliminated the right of same sex couples to marry in California. Since 2005, DHF has worked with statewide coalitions to defeat Parental Notification Initiatives (Props 73, 85, and 4) which would have amended the California Constitution to impede women’s reproductive rights.

CANDIDATE FORUMS: For democracy to work, voters must be engaged and educated. As such, the Vecinos Unidos community organizations host non-partisan Candidate Forums (pictured below) so local residents have an opportunity to ask questions and get to know their prospective elected officials. All candidates are invited.


9064_doloresmakesherpoint_displayThe Dolores Huerta Foundation “Weaves Movements Together”: Issues of women’s rights, gay rights, immigrant rights, labor rights and civil rights are individual threads of a much larger tapestry of justice and universal human rights. Through a combination of new media, traditional media, coalition building, and speaking engagements, DHF staff, board, and volunteers raise awareness about human rights, encouraging professionals and young people alike to become activists. We encourage you to check out organizations we collaborate with at our Links Page. DHF president, Dolores Huerta, travels around the country speaking to diverse groups about the importance of civic participation.If you are interested in booking a member of the DHF team for a speaking engagement, please visit our Speaker’s Bureau.



Civic Engagement Blog

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