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White House recognizes Reno woman for civil rights work

A Reno community organizer was recognized by the White House on Thursday for her advocacy on health care, immigration and civil rights.

Elvira Diaz was one of 10 people declared "Champions of Change" for having dedicated themselves to improving the lives of others.

The weekly program highlights a different group of "champions." This week it focused on people the White House said were carrying on the legacy of Cesar Chavez, the co-founder of the United Farm Workers.

Diaz, a Mexican immigrant who became a U.S. citizen in 1992, was recognized for her work with the Progressive League Alliance of Nevada.

She joined others for a panel discussion at the White House that was hosted by actress America Ferrera.

Diaz said she became an advocate for Mexican immigrants in the early 1990s while living in California. In 1994, California voters approved Proposition 187, which prohibited illegal immigrants s from using health care, public education and other social services. It was later ruled unconstitutional.

At the time, Diaz said she organized a student rally that drew about 200 to protest the ballot initiative.

"You can start something very small and have courage of just doing that," she said.

Since 2010, she has worked at the Progressive League Alliance of Nevada organizing health care events, advocating on behalf of immigration, and on helping Latinos register to vote.

"It is one thing to do marching and "Si se puede" but we need to register people to vote. Our power is our vote," Diaz said.

"Si se puede," which translates to "Yes, it can be done" is the motto of the United Farm Workers.

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