Come hang out at Winchester Park (here is a map to get there) and enjoy Art at the Skate Park, a skateboarding contest and art sale to benefit the Winchester Skate Team.
When you get there you will meet an extraordinary group of kids and their mentor, Hektor Esparza. I met Hektor a few years ago. Our children are friends and we'd been invited to dinner at the Esparza's home. I was immediately impressed with Hektor and his wife, Amey. They are, in essence, what I would like to be - salt of the Earth, good folk who care more about people and the world around them than they do about making a fast buck and owning the biggest TV on the block. They live their values, which is something you can't always say about people these days.
Hektor's job reflects the values of his family. With 24 years experience as a skateboarder, he works with at risk youth by taking their (and his) passion for skateboarding and using it as a vehicle to move them toward a well-balanced, successful life. It's not easy to become a member of the Winchester Park Skate Team. Just because a kid has a tough life doesn't mean that they are Skate Team material. The 14 youth chosen to be on the team first have to try out, prove that they maintain at least a C average in school, and that they are actively studying an art form. Watch them skate here.
Once on the team, the youth learn that the mandatory weekly meetings are about much more than skating technique. They are exposed to some of the best artists and minds in Clark County, constantly encouraged to do well in school, and consistently shown that the path to a successful future is though education.
Since the programs inception in 2006, many of the alumni are finishing high school (a few are the first in their families to do so), attending college, and have moved on to greater success in skateboarding and other creative interests.
In March of last year, KNPR interviewed Hektor and a members of the skate team. It is well worth a listen to hear from the boys how this program has affected their lives in a positive way.
With the flagship event, the Las Vegas Good Games, an annual multimedia art event designed to expose youth in the area to the arts and promote education, Hecktor brought together skating professionals and thousands of young people and their families this past spring. There were skating competitions and art exhibitions.
In an article in the Las Vegas Weekly featuring the Good Games, Hektor said about kids in the Las Vegas skating culture, “They’re getting bad information from the streets. They think the only way to success is to turn pro at skateboarding or get a good construction or hotel job. They don’t understand that they can use their creativity and intellect in a career, that they don’t just have to be laborers."
Hektor goes on to say that as a teen he was semi-homeless during his high school years. “I succeeded because I learned I can communicate.”
This Saturday's event reflects all that the Winchester Skate Team stands for. There will be skating contests for all ages and levels ($5 entry fee), numerous works of art available for purchase from students of area magnet schools and the skaters on the Winchester Skate Team.
The funds raised will be used for field trips to skate parks, museums and galleries, tours of college campuses, and cultural events. The money will help pay for tuition and other expenses for skate team members pursuing their education. It will pay for art supplies and the removal of graffiti at the skate park.
In June of this year, Hektor and Amey launched a non-profit, the Push Forward Skate Mentor Program. Push Forward has partnered with the Metro Arts Council of Southern Nevada to expand the model of the Winchester Skate Team to the other 30 skate parks in the Las Vegas Valley. After learning about the positive affect on each year's team at Winchester, just imagine how many Las Vegas youth will be lifted up to a better life with this new program.
If you would like to offer your help to Push Forward or you know someone of influence who would be interested in hearing about the program, contact me and I will make sure you connect with Hektor and Amey to share your great ideas.
See you at the park this Saturday! It's going to be a blast!