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Program pairs disabled students with arts

As Mario Guerrero recited his poem titled "He is," to the crowd at the Merced Multicultural Arts Center Friday, it sounded like he was describing his best friend.

But, the "he" who Guerrero was referring had taken him off-roading, helped him with the ladies and even caused him a few broken toes was actually his wheelchair.

Guerrero was one of 12 physically disabled high school students who participated in the VSA (Very Special Arts) Merced County summer program. During the month-long program, the teenagers dabble in art, photography, music, dance and poetry with help from John Russell-Curry, itinerant teacher of the orthopedically handicapped for MCOE.

The program culminated Friday with a performance by the teenager as well as students from the Merced County Office of Education's Orthopedically Handicapped class and the Deaf and Hard of Hearing class. The art center's Enrichment Program students — an adult arts program for the developmentally disabled -- also helped entertain a standing-room only crowd in the art center's theater Friday.