Healing Arts of a Different Kind
Heritage student Daisy Vargas is not afraid of setting big goals or the hard work required to achieve them.
With a passion for the arts and a heart for at-risk youth, Vargas founded a nonprofit organization in the Tri-Cities
called One Peace, One World in the winter of 2013 to empower youth to connect and beautify their community through art.
“I want to give the kids an opportunity to express themselves in a positive way, but they needed someone to show them how,” Vargas said. “Whether it’s through poetry, painting or music, our goal is to help kids connect with themselves and, ultimately, positively impact their community through their artwork.”
Vargas, 21, will finish her final semester at Heritage University this fall with a degree in social work. She is a paraeducator for the Kennewick School District working with teens in the juvenile justice system as well as a youth service counselor at My Friends Place, a teen homeless shelter in the Tri-City area. One Peace, One World hosts its bimonthly meetings at the shelter.
One Peace, One World is open to all teens and is already serving about 25 kids in the community. The organization has several adult mentors and professional artists who work with the kids as they create their art, offering tips and insight or just an ear to listen.
Inspired by her late father’s dedication to serving others, Vargas credits his influence with setting an example not only for impacting her community, but also for using her passions and interests to help others.
“My father taught me to open up my heart and be willing to give to others,” she said.
Vargas’s enthusiasm for service is contagious. Tri-City area painter David Vasquez, 30, and mixed-media artist
Josue Montes, 27, are the “imagination team” behind One Peace, One World. The two got involved with the
organization after witnessing Vargas’s passion for helping teens find identity and inclusion through the experience
of creating their own artwork.
“I saw how I could be a positive influence,” Vasquez said. “I want these kids to understand that they can follow their
dreams. They can have dreams, period.”
Mentoring the teens during their twice-monthly meetings as well as sitting on the board, the artists enthusiastically
jumped in feet first to support the mission of the organization. They offer tips and techniques as the teens work on their various projects, but mostly they make themselves available for the youth to ask questions and build friendships. They also help Vargas fundraise and put on events to grow the organization.
“I had someone who mentored me as a teenager and now I want to give back,” Montes said.
In June, the teenage artists got their first taste of what it would be like to be professionals. One Peace, One World hosted an art show and benefit concert in June called The Melting Pot: An Art Show. At this showcase of the youths’ artwork thus far, the teens were thrilled to feature their work, and several of them sold pieces. All proceeds benefited One Peace, One World, providing art supplies for the young participants.
Vargas has big dreams for the organization’s future. She and her kids are focused on building public art installations for the entire community to enjoy. The teens are highly motivated to create, practice and develop their personal artistic style, she said.
“Often, we find that the youth have no connection to their community,” Vargas said. “By creating art and putting
it out there for the community, they not only have a chance to authentically express themselves, but it ties them to the community they live in.”
Participating in One Peace, One World has helped Perla Muñoz, 16, funnel her emotions, happy or sad, into
something positive. After meeting Vargas, Muñoz tentatively agreed to attend just one meeting. She was hooked.
“I’ve been through a lot,” Muñoz said simply. “But using art to express myself has been a really good thing. It’s helped me understand there are positive ways to express myself and that each person will see the same thing in a completely different way. It’s been cool to see how each person experiences art in their own unique way.”
As for Vargas, graduating from Heritage University in the not-so-distant future and big dreams don’t stop with One Peace, One World. She plans to pursue a master’s degree in social work and ultimately a doctorate in neuroscience.
“My mother always tells me never to give up. She has always made education a priority, and because of that, it’s always been my main focus. I know the more I learn, the more I can do to serve my community,” Vargas said.