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Author Speaks at OHS

Author Viola Canales visited students at Ontario High School May 18 and 19, sharing messages that inspired students to write their thoughts down on paper, to become anything they want to be, and to take every opportunity to learn and grow.

Canales, who grew up in McAllen, Texas, told Lola Booth's English students that an opportunity to attend a prep high school in Austin, Texas, later gave her the opportunity to attend Harvard College. One of the first things she learned about Harvard - is that it is located in Cambridge, Mass., which is a lot colder than McAllen, Texas!

Canales went on to earn a law degree from Harvard Law School. Wanting to travel, she joined the military and enrolled in its leadership program. She eventually attained the rank of Captain. After the military, she moved to California, where she helped organize boycotts and marches for Cesar Chavez, and practiced law. In 1994, was appointed by President Clinton to head a large region in the U.S. Small Business Administration. She went on to become a published author.

As she spoke to the students, it was obvious that Canales was simply interested in living the life she was meant to lead, and that this was something all young people should do.

"I grew up in a community where most women married young and had children," Canales said. "I wanted to so stuff - travel, see what's out there, experience things. I wanted adventure."

"Get outside your comfort zone," she told students, noting that her risks were always responsible ones. "Take a leap and learn more about yourself."

Canales read excerpts from her book, "Orange Candy Slices," a collection a short stories about growing up in a culture rich in story-telling and superstition. She encouraged OHS students to write about what they know, and like Canales, to write down family stories that their grandparents tell them.

"I write for myself," Canales said when asked who her audience is when she writes. "I find life is an adventure."

Nicolas Manriques, 9th grade, said he was surprised that Ms. Canales knew about the Cleansing of the Evil Eye. "I was also impressed because she told me she came from a poor family and now she is a writer. She told me that we all had stories and that I could also write a book one day about my experiences or folktales my grandparents have told me."

"She has struggled a lot in life and became an author even though she was poor," said Rosaura Alanis, 10th grade. "I want to work hard like she has to become an important person in my life. It was a pleasure having her in class and listening to her interesting stories. She told us that we need to write our parents' stories down and that we are capable of writing our own books."