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Pacific Oaks College Announces Social Activist Chanchanit ‘Chancee’ Martorell as Keynote Speaker for 2021 Commencement Ceremony

Published on Friday, October 22, 2021 | 11:53 am
 
Chanchanit (Chancee) Martorell

Pasadena’s Pacific Oaks College on Thursday announced plans to celebrate the class of 2020 and 2021 in October with an in-person commencement at the Rose Bowl Stadium on October 30.

The commencement will prioritize safety while celebrating the success of graduates.

The College said it will welcome social activist Chanchanit “Chancee” Martorell as commencement speaker, who will also receive an honorary degree.

“With over 30 years of experience and commitment to social activism, Pacific Oaks is honored to host Chancee Martorell as our keynote speaker. Her extensive work on affordable housing development, small business promotion, neighborhood revitalization, immigrant rights, and social justice are an inspiration to the entire Pacific Oaks community,” said Dr. Jack Paduntin, president of Pacific Oaks College & Children’s School.

Martorell is the Founder & Executive Director of Thai Community Development Center (Thai CDC), a non-profit organization established in 1994 to improve the lives of Thai immigrants through services that promote cultural adjustment and economic self-sufficiency.

Martorell is known for her work on a half a dozen human rights cases involving over 2000 Thai victims of human trafficking. Her advocacy on behalf of the victims has made her a leading expert and spokesperson on the serious issue of modern-day slavery.

At dawn on August 2, 1995, Martorell met with government authorities and law enforcement at a donut shop in El Monte, California, a few blocks from a compound that they would raid. The compound was a row of apartment duplexes on a quiet residential street surrounded by barbed wire. During the raid, 72 Thai nationals were found working in conditions of slavery in a makeshift garment factory. The workers, some of whom had been enslaved for up to seven years, had no idea that their plight would capture international attention and would be deemed one of the worst incidents of modern-day slavery.

In 1999, under Martorell’s leadership, Thai CDC played a pivotal role in an eight-year long community organizing campaign to establish East Hollywood, CA as the first Thai Town in the nation. The Thai Town designation was the first step of a multi-faceted, economic development strategy to revitalize a depressed section of Hollywood while enriching the city’s cultural and social fiber.

Born in Thailand and raised in Los Angeles, Martorell earned her B.A. in Political Science and Public Law and an M.A. in Urban Planning with a specialization in Urban Regional Development/Third World Development at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). Martorell has taught a course on the Thai American experience at UCLA and has written on the topics of Asian poverty, community economic development, and urban revitalization strategies.

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