Artist, interpreter and volunteer

March 21, 2015

Nine years ago, Hugo Ximello Salido emigrated from Mexico, unable to communicate in English. Soon he could graduate JCCC with a 4.0 GPA.

Hugo Ximello Salido owned a hair salon in Mexico in 2005. He knew no English and had only the vaguest idea of Kansas. Ten years later, he’s a Johnson County Community College student, an artist and a volunteer, a man with many interests who intends on pursuing them all.

Ximello is attending JCCC to become a health care interpreter. He’s also studying his third language – French – to eventually become trilingual.

“It requires a lot of work,” Ximello said. “Whoever said they (Spanish and French) are similar – that’s not my opinion. They are very different. Every language requires time and study.”

Being in America

And he should know. When he arrived in Kansas City in 2006, he’d had less than a year of English at a British school in Guadalajara when he was 13. At the time, he was relatively uninterested, so his knowledge of English was next to nothing.

He learned English, he said, “by being obnoxious.”

“I didn’t have a formal program for learning English, until in went to JCCC in 2013. Basically, if you were talking, I would say, ‘Say that again. Use it in a sentence. Let me hear that again,’ just asking questions and being obnoxious,” he said.

When he began at JCCC, he enrolled as international student and met Patricia Donaldson, a coordinator in International and Immigrant Student Services.

Art as a passion

Donaldson suggested Ximello show his art as part of Diversidad, a conference that focuses on attracting Hispanic students to higher education. Teachers, counselors and admissions personnel from across the area have attended the conference at JCCC for the last two years.

Outside the conference area, Ximello displayed 20 or so pieces that reflected his Mexican heritage and celebrated the upcoming Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.

“It was such a great response,” Ximello said. “It was terrific, really terrific.” (See photos of the exhibition on Ximello’s website.)

Both his mother and his aunt are artists, and Ximello is a self-taught painter. His works have appeared in First Fridays and in charity auctions. From March 6 to April 10, his works will be on view at the Mattie Rhodes Art Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

His art is abstract impressionism, with a nod to bold colors. Even though he’s also had exhibitions in Mexico, he considers painting a passion, not a profession.

Interpreting as a profession

He instead chose health care interpreting. To gain experience, Ximello volunteers three or four hours a week at the KC Care Clinic in Kansas City, Missouri.

“I feel rewarded because I’m doing something that is not for me,” he said. “Being unselfish – if that is a word – because I am exposing myself to all kinds of germs, going through training, confidentiality. It is a lot of things you have to consider.”

Ximello said he’s willing to take the risk, especially when he remembers what it feels like to be cut off from services due to a language barrier.

“I say, ‘I am glad I am here, because this person could have been have taking his medication for two times a day, and if I hadn’t been here, he could have been taking two pills a day, twice a day, just because he didn’t understand – stuff like that. So many numbers. Imagine that plus the language barrier. That’s why I picked this interpreting program.”

Since Ximello started JCCC, he’s maintained a 4.0 grade-point average, making the President’s Honor Roll every semester, and won two scholarships. He plans to complete his health care interpreting certificate in August 2015 and his associate degree in general studies in December 2015.