Gilbert Salazar was born to work with young people. He has spent years teaching, guiding and mentoring them in a variety of settings.

Gilbert SalazarNow the former Service Learning Student Leader and 2008 graduate of CSU Monterey Bay’s integrated studies special major is headed to the University of Southern California to pursue a Master of Arts degree in applied theater arts. The program appeals to him because he believes theater can be used to address social issues.

Since graduating, Salazar has worked with at-risk youth at Sunrise House in Salinas in a program called Youth Alternatives to Violence; as a youth coordinator for the United Way; and at the Monterey County Rape Crisis Center, where he teaches MyStrengh classes.

MyStrength is a statewide program that targets young men between the ages of 14 and 18, empowering them to speak out against sexual violence.

Through his work with the Rape Crisis Center, he also visits middle and high schools, teaching about sexual harassment and assault in order to prevent sexual violence.

Skits and role-playing figure in his work, and he’s eager to learn how to better develop and facilitate those activities.

“It’s my intent with the applied theater arts program to move males away from harmful behaviors and activities and toward masculine identities that are less harmful, less violent,” he said.

He sees it as a continuation of the work he did for his capstone project at CSUMB, where he developed a curriculum to prevent adolescent male violence.

“I want to move forward with a curriculum to be included in the burgeoning fields of masculinity studies and gender studies,” he said.

“Last year, my work was recognized. I was interviewed by USC sociology professor Michael Messner for an anthology about men who work in the violence prevention movement.”

He’s quick to point out that applied theater arts is not about staging a production; it’s about education and creating change.

And that’s a challenge he’s eager to embrace.