It has been said it takes a village to raise a child. Ignacio Valdez is the youngest of seven children born to Mexican parents. Growing up there was no English spoken in their home. It was not until he enrolled in public school that he began to learn English.
Ignacio was in a class I was working with on behalf of my charity, Martin County Special Needs Training. I teach art and art history. Without this all-volunteer program, the students normally would not receive this benefit. We have been servicing many of the special needs classes in the Martin County School District for 14 years.
When Ignacio attended my classes, I could see he was a very talented and gifted young man. I first met him when I was teaching at Dr. David Anderson Middle School. Ignacio was in the sixth grade. He did not always come to school, probably because he had little interest or need for the other subjects being taught. Something in my class really touched him. He was in my class again in the seventh and eighth grades.
When Ignacio went on to Martin County High School, I asked his teacher to be sure he received art as an elective. I also asked the art teacher at Martin County High to be on the lookout for him. They both obliged and Ignacio had art as an elective.
In his freshman year, Ignacio said he wanted to be an artist. I saw he had a special talent: perfect perspective and perfect proportion. He could look at something and make it larger or smaller perfectly.
He was subsequently "mainstreamed" and no longer in my art class. In his second and third years he won art contests in school and the teachers became aware of his talents. They, too, became part of the village to help him.
I kept in contact with Ignacio, and the charity has helped by paying for him to take classes at The Lighthouse ArtCenter in Tequesta. Ignacio's dream to become an artist continues to grow. His interest in school has grown since he enrolled at The Lighthouse ArtCenter.
We are all mentoring him so his dream might one day be fulfilled. He has now decided he wants to go to college and major in art.
Because he was originally "special needs," he will be due to graduate in June with a diploma that would not allow him to attend a four-year college. Thanks to his guidance counselor and others, this has been rectified.
It is very hard today to establish yourself as an artist. However, as luck would have it, something new has been added to Ignacio's life. My wife, Sandy Bernstein, likes to needlepoint. We came up with the idea for Ignacio to try to paint needlepoint canvases and sell them to retail stores.
The owner of Stitches by the Sea, in Delray Beach, was blown away by his talent when we took a few canvases to her to critique. She already has purchased several pieces for her shop. Her comment to Sandy was: "I have enough work to keep him really busy!"
We are very hopeful this introduction to the art world will help him make a name for himself. In addition, it will enable him to pay for college and fulfill his dream.
Jordan Bernstein teaches art classes through the all-volunteer nonprofit called Martin County Special Needs Training.