If anyone knows "resilience," it's Cristobal Gallardo.
The 20-year-old Olivehurst resident is in his second year at South Lindhurst High School, after fours years at Lindhurst High School, but no diploma. Art was one reason he never did well, spending more time sketching than paying attention, but it's art that's now bringing him back.
For the last two weeks, Gallardo has been spray painting a graffiti-like mural on wooden panels to soon be installed inside C Building at Lindhurst High School.
The mural, which spells out "resilience," will be unveiled to students later this month.
"It basically relates to when you fall, you know, you get right back up," he said. "We have that reputation for the shooting and for mostly bad kids. Just like any other school, we have our bad times. But we get back up."
Gallardo explains resilience is like grass overcoming concrete. Vegetation will always find a way to creep its way back to survive, and eventually take over what tried to keep it down, he said.
"Like I tell all my friends who say, 'I can't draw," — yes you can. You need to practice," he said.
He practices, too, Gallardo said.
Just as he tries to better himself academically, he has been pushing himself recently to try unfamiliar art styles. But for this project, he stuck to the familiar, and splashes of red, yellow and blue are carefully styled on the 4-foot-by-36-foot mural in elaborate lettering.
Michael Zysk, an English teacher at Lindhurst who has overseen the project, said Gallardo has exceeded his expectations, tapping into powerful primary colors and capturing the intention of the project, which was to affirm the strength and goodness of the Lindhurst students.
"I feel very close to the young people of Linda and Olivehurst," Zysk said. "They have let me in just enough to see how strong, how powerful, how wise they have been made by their hardships.
"My students have every reason to quit and to give up and they don't, and why they don't is because of their heart, their character, their resilience," he continued.
Zysk encourages the community to view the mural at its unveiling, as well as the artwork of other students, at the Lindhurst art show May 16, and said the community needs more venues for murals and similar artistic expression.
"Young people really don't have a lot of outlets for their vision, for their creativity, and they are in a place in their brains that is so creative and dynamic," he said. "If there is a tension or a problem or a crime, I'm wondering if it's in part out of boredom ... All that energy they possess so naturally can be directed back into something in the community."
Gallardo is determined to graduate from South Lindhurst in the fall and go on to art school. He encourages other students who may have struggled to complete their education to not give up.
"When you are down, get right back up," he said. "Every person has their down days or their down time, but don't let anything keep you down. Be that one blade of grass that breaks that cement, that is going forward and pushing on to what it wants."
CONTACT Ashley Gebb at firstname.lastname@example.org or 749-4783. Find her on Facebook at /ADagebb or on Twitter at @ADagebb.