Latino artist inspires students at McKay

Latino artist inspires students at McKay
Simón Silva was a migrant worker who gained fame
By Thelma Guerrero-Huston • Statesman Journal • March 11, 2009

Renowned Latino artist and author Simón Silva doesn't mince words.
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"It doesn't matter how good looking you are, how rich you are, or how smart you are, your future will be based on the effort you make now to become a successful person," he told McKay High School students.

A former California migrant worker and college graduate, Silva was at McKay last week to speak with students and parents during the school's fifth annual Family Literacy Night.

The yearly event was spearheaded by the late Catarino Cavazos, who believed every student should be given the chance to fulfill their dreams, said Sarah Bent, an English Language Development, or ELD, teacher at McKay.

Earlier in the day, Silva visited students in different classrooms, challenging them to work hard, be respectful, exercise self-discipline and to make their dream a reality through higher education.

His stop in Salem was part of nationwide tours he makes to share his personal journey with students in hopes of encouraging them to finish high school and go to college.

"He inspired me," said art lover and 10th-grader Francisco Vargas. "I plan to work harder so I can get better at drawing, because I'm not really that good right now."

Art student Austin Zepeda also felt encouraged by Silva's talk.

"I love art," he said. "It keeps me out of trouble, gives me something to do, and I learn a lot about myself and other people."

Silva is known for his paintings depicting farmworkers bending to harvest crops under the sun's radiating heat amid a backdrop of picturesque fields and valleys.

"I feel like I have something to offer the students," the artist said. "I wish somebody would've come to my school to offer me the information that I offer students."

Silva also works with parents to help them understand the role they play in their children's lives.

"I really appreciate his honesty," said McKay art teacher John Haus. "We invited him here so he could share his knowledge and personal experience with the students."

When asked about his journey from a small boy working in the fields in Southern California to a successful artist and book author, Silva was brutally honest.

"I used art as a way to escape my family life, and as a way to be recognized in a positive manner in school, " he said. "As far as (my) family was concerned, my art was irrelevant. But art was special to me. It nurtured my self-esteem."

tguerrero-huston@StatesmanJournal.com or (503) 399-6815

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