In 1996, the president of M.E.Ch.A. (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán) at Washington State University recognized the great necessity of getting RAZA to higher education. He, like many others, knew that the only way our gente can advance in this society is with an education. He developed a plan that would make it possible for M.E.ChistAs from WSU to directly talk to students about the necessity of an education, by visiting high schools across the state specifically to talk to Chicano/a Latino/a students. This was the beginning of the C.A.S.H.E. High School Visitations.
These visitations became successful because up until then, not much attention was paid to this group of students. Recruiters from different colleges/universities that did visit, only targeted college bound students. However, it soon became clear that although the high school visitations were a success, they were limited. Most high schools only allowed visitations to take place during lunch, silent reading time, or only let the students attend, out of their classrooms, for about 30 minutes. It was barely enough time to try to spark an interest in students to pursue higher education. Something more was needed.
Again, this same M.E.ChistA (Christiaan Brown) had another vision. What if we were able to have a weekend conference to bring students together for the purpose of promoting and encouraging higher education among Raza, simultaneously providing workshops on cultural empowerment, leadership, and a desire to take this new knowledge back to their communities to share with others.
Christiaan Brown, along with other fellow M.E.ChistAs began working with the WSU administration to make this conference a reality. After long negotiations and months of planning, the M.E.ChistAs found a way for the university to fully fund the conference while M.E.ChistAs did the planning. The Chicana/o Latina/o Recruiter for WSU at the time (Elizabeth Ramirez) was able to organize M.E.Ch.A. chapters across the State of Washington to help get students to attend the conference. This was the brith of the 1st Annual C.A.S.H.E. Youth Conference.
March 21-23rd, 1997, were the historical dates of this conference. It drew nearly 200 students from different parts of the State of Washington as well as many different M.E.Ch.A. volunteers from different colleges/universities around Washington. The conference was a success and stayed in the hearts and memories of not only the high school student participants, but also in the hearts of those who organized it.
Although the university covered the 1st Annual C.A.S.H.E. Youth Conference, it was not willing to pay another $15,000 to do a 2nd conference the following year. Unfortunately the following year there was no Annual C.A.S.H.E. Youth Conference.
That same year, two M.E.ChistAs from the Yakima Valley (David Gutierrez and Ernesto Sanchez), new to the WSU campus, along with two other student activists (Marilyn Bayond and Franz Maish) decided to hold the university accountable. They believed that the price of the conference should not be an obstacle preventing Raza youth from getting a chance to hear of the importance of higher education. They knew that if students who attend the conference end up coming to WSU after they graduate from high school, the university would gain four times as much in just a year or two with college tuition costs. It was an investment that was necessary and convenient for both the conference participants as well as the university. These students wanted a conference for the next year.
These four individuals quickly joined a national effort led by the Brown Berets of Aztlán based in California. The event was called "Brown Flu Day" to be held October 12th, 1997. The day was chosen to symbolize the rejection of the Celebration of Columbus Day and replacing it by "Raza Day." The main point of the National Brown Flu Day however, was for Raza to show U.S. society that without our people laboring in the fields, orchards, empaques, etc., the U.S. could not function normal. It was to prove that they do need us, so "quit trying to hate on Brown folks." The national call to Raza was to be invisible for just one day, by not showing up to work, school, or even go to stores to shop. It was also a day to protest social inequalities that directly affect Chicana/o Latina/o people in the U.S.
On "Brown Flu Day" these four WSU students, along with other Chicana/o Latina/o supporters decided to pay the President of Washington State University an early morning visit. At exactly 7am, President Sam Smith had over 25 angry students at his doorstep with a list of demands for him to address. Amongst those demands was a monetary ($) commitment to make the Annual C.A.S.H.E. Youth Conference a reality again.
This resulted in a lengthily meeting with President Sam Smith and some of his administrative staff. One of the final outcomes was a university commitment of $5,000 dollars for the next conference. Although this would only cover about 1/3 of the conference costs, it did get the Annual C.A.S.H.E. Youth Conference underway again.
The following year was difficult in terms of funding the conference. In fact, unless the M.E.ChistAs found a way to come up with the rest of the money, the conference might have not happened again. Fortunately, the Chicana/o Latina/o Staff and Faculty Association worked with M.E.ChistAs to make possible a C.A.S.H.E. visitation day at WSU.
This became known as the "C.A.S.H.E. Career Day." Although it was only a one-day event, it did provide about 50 or so Raza high school students a chance to visit the WSU campus and learn about how they can come to WSU or attend any other institution of higher education.
Ever since then, M.E.ChistAs have had to continue to struggle every year to fund the conference. Seeking funds, donations and sponsorship from businesses, departments, and individuals sponsors. Fortunately, up until now these student's efforts have made it possible to make the Annual C.A.S.H.E. Conference a reality. Hundreds of Raza students across the State of Washington have experienced the conference and many chose to return. Many students have already come to WSU specifically because of the impact of the C.A.S.H.E. Conference has had on them.