2001 Inductee - Irene Kilian de Ojeda.jpg

2001 Inductee - Irene Kilian de Ojeda.jpg

Community Service

Social progress seems to move at a snail’s slowest pace, but if viewed by Irene Killian de Ojeda’s life, it does move eventually. During her lifetime, Mexican-Americans have made tremendous strides in becoming first class citizens and she has been a part of the forces that changed society. Since 1982, Irene has been a Judicial appointed commissioner of San Joaquin County’s Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Commission. Recently the commission has been making news with its investigation into how juvenile hall has been run. “One of Irene’s focuses has been on the facilities of Mary Graham Children Shelter. She has been among the early vocal proponents for replacing the run-down facilities,” asserted William Killian. Irene led the fight in the 1960’s to force the General Mills plant in Lodi to start hiring minorities. She organized the picketing and the negotiations that led to the end of discriminatory hiring practices. At the time General Mills was one of the top paying companies in the country.

She was also the first Mexican-American to be elected to St Ann’s church’s previously all-white Parish Council. She taught catechism to children from farm labor camps in the vicinity. Irene was one of the original organizers and founders of Stockton’s Council for the Spanish-Speaking (Concilio). She was a Charter Board Member. Later she became Concilio’s Director of its drug prevention program. Irene started and edited La Voz De La Raza, the only Spanish/English periodical during that era. “It was instrumental in keeping the community informed of activity in the movimiento for Mexican-American progress, “remembers William Killian. The complete issues of this historical newspaper will be housed in UC Berkley’s Ethnic Studies Library. A television program with the same name was later developed by El Concilio.

“She was pleased to be on speaking terms with Cesar Chavez and Reyes Tijerina,” William Killian said proudly. One of her most precious possessions is a framed letter from Chavez in 1972 thanking her for her support of the Farm Workers Union. In 1974 Irene became Executive Director of the Rising Sun, a counseling program in Tracy. For over 14 years she helped provide mental health and substance abuse services to young people and their families. In 1980, Rising Sun and Irene were cited by the Juvenile Justice Commission for “valuable contributions toward the furtherance of juvenile justice and delinquency prevention activities in San Joaquin County.”

Irene has achieved tremendous success. How can other Mexican-Americans also achieve success? “I believe that education is the key for Latino advancement in being full participants in a democratic society,” was her answer. Irene has a B.A. in History with a minor in Chicano Studies, a teaching credential and a Masters in Education. Her thesis was about the Mexican-American school drop out experience. She also has helped start a Stockton Chapter of the CSU Stanislaus Alumni Association. Irene has been involved in such community activities as Su Salud Health Fairs and has mentored college students.