The next generation was the focus of Saturday's NAACP dinner, now in its fifth year.
Scores of people, young and old, attended the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Los Banos, Dos Palos and Gustine branch's Freedom Fund Banquet and Dance at the Los Banos Community Center.
Young people were sprinkled throughout the ceremony to flesh out the youth theme.
Johnathan Cheeks, a Westside Union Elementary sixth-grader, read poetry. It focused on the accomplishments of the 102-year-old NAACP and the leaders that came before that.
"Imagine, for a moment, to work in a field for 12 to 15 hours a day, to come home and sit by candlelight to teach others to read and write," Cheeks said. "They knew then that education was the key."
Keynote speaker Valeska Gutierrez, the NAACP's California-Hawaii youth and college division vice president, reiterated the importance of education.
"We have become too comfortable with being average," Gutierrez said. "That's a serious problem, if you ask me."
Gutierrez charged the young people in attendance to take the baton from the leaders of color who have come before.
The first-year student at California State University, Northridge saw her share of struggle. Gutierrez grew up in a single-parent household and passed through the foster-home system because of her mother's mental illness.
Despite these obstacles, Gutierrez graduated from Oakland High School with honors, and would like to tackle educational and civil rights issues after college.Vondell McKenzie, the local chapter's newest president, said that all people of all colors are people of color and can be members of the NAACP.
The chapter awarded Los Banos High School graduate Ieashia Isby the 2011 NAACP Scholarship.
"[The NAACP] has proven to me that hard work and dedication really do pay off," Isby said.