BOOST OST Participant Profile: Jesus "Cimi" Alvarado
Area of OST Focus: School based afterschool programs
When I was growing up in segundo barrio, there were a lot of afterschool programs for my classmates and me. Many of them came and went due to a lack of funding and other factors. But no matter how long some of these programs were around, they made a lasting impact on who I am today.
As a kid, I lived right across the street from Sacred Heart Church, and I was involved with several activities that the City of El Paso Parks and Recreation department sponsored. It was in the church’s gymnasium where I began playing basketball and boxing- thanks mostly to my mom, who pushed me to get involved in sports rather than other activities outside of the classroom that could have gotten me in trouble.
When I was 11 years old, I also began playing chess through La Campaña, an afterschool program headed by El Paso historian David Romo. He taught several kids in segundo barrio how to play. La Campaña also gave us the opportunity to visit elementary schools and teach younger kids to play once we were proficient enough ourselves.
My experiences in out-of-school programs helped me find my passion and grow my skills, and they are a testament to how these kinds of programs can help prepare kids for future challenges. From math application and strategy to patience, critical thinking, teamwork, and the importance of staying physically active, I have carried many of the lessons I learned in chess and sports over into my adult life. It was such a powerful experience that in 1999, I moved to Dallas and soon discovered my goal of providing kids who grew up in similar circumstances as myself the opportunity to find something they love and improve their community- in my case not through sports, but through art.
“I would encourage kids to join any activity that interests them. Afterschool programs will almost certainly introduce young people to new opportunities, people, and lessons that exist outside of the small world they grew up in, and those experiences will only better their life.” - Jesus “Cimi” Alvarado, muralist and co-founder of Kalavera Culture Shop