Chicago Bears Head of Youth Football and Community Programs Gustavo Silva Impacts Thousands of People


Silva’s tireless work ethic was ingrained in him as a child. Growing up in what he describes as “pretty tough neighborhoods” in Los Angeles – South Central, East LA – he saw his father, Fernando, take on multiple jobs and gradually grow from a bus boy to an established cook.

“It’s hard work,” Silva said. “Working 12 to 16 hour shifts in 100 degree kitchens, scrapping. But he was always a hard worker. I can’t remember a time when my dad was sick and took time off work for some reason at one of his jobs. He was still working 2-3 jobs. He slept a few hours and got back to work. He had a relentless work ethic.

“One thing my dad also taught me is that there is no shame in being poor. Shame is doing things that are not right. his life or whatever he did. It was like that with both of my parents. It was about opportunities they were creating for us and, ultimately, for their grandchildren. “

Silva’s mother, Teresa, had the same work ethic as her husband.

“In California, my mom has always worked pretty much in sweatshops, piecing together,” Silva said. “You sewed 10 clothes for a dollar. She would take a few buses to downtown LA where these sweatshops were and she would do that for 8-10 hours. And then she would bring bags of clothes home. on the bus to sew more at home She would feed us and then she would go back to sewing.

There were quite a few mouths to feed. Silva is the middle of seven children; he has a sister and two older brothers and a sister and two younger brothers.

“I remember I was a little kid and my mom barely ate,” Silva said. “She wanted to make sure we had enough. She always kept a jar of change near her sewing machine so that I could have a few coins and I could go to the corner store and buy a bag of crisps. are my parents in a nutshell. ”

In search of a safer environment for their children, Fernando and Teresa Silva moved their family to Illinois when Gustavo was in sixth grade. They lived in an apartment in Rolling Meadows for a few months before buying a house in Carpentersville.

“Six children and two parents living in a three bedroom house,” said Silva, “and it was a step forward from where we were and the neighborhood we had lived in.”

The middle class was “a step forward”

Silva’s parents and her three older siblings were all born in Mexico. He was the first child of his family born in the United States. The Silvas lived in poverty, but that’s not something Gustavo realized until they moved to Illinois.

“Where we lived in California, everyone was the same,” Gustavo said. “Everyone was poor. We all had a free lunch. We were all in the same boat. There was a kind of solace in that.

“Carpentersville is not rich, it’s the middle class. But the middle class was a step forward for us. That’s when you start to realize that you are poor and that maybe the Jobs your parents do are not considered as good as jobs other people’s parents do. It’s not as glamorous. My dad works in a kitchen and my mom sews. That’s when- there that we realized we were poor. You get a free lunch and maybe other kids don’t. That’s when you start to realize, “Dude, we’re different. “

Silva concedes that these differences made him uncomfortable as a teenager. But years later – he turned 48 last Saturday – he marvels at the adversity his parents overcame.

“I’m ashamed to say that during those college years I wasn’t proud of who I was, where I was from and what my parents were doing,” he said. “As I got older, graduated from high school and started mentoring my brothers, I started to realize all the sacrifices they made. I started to be very proud of them, to the point that now I almost brag about where I’m from and what my parents did. I’m extremely proud of them, and as an adult I was able to verbalize it with them. “

A new path has led to working with bears

After graduating from Judson, Silva sought a job as a high school teacher. Instead, he landed a job as a physical education instructor at an elementary school. Although he was hesitant at first, he ended up loving her.

It was through this position that Silva had the first contact with the Bears. He has visited Halas Hall a few times as part of a “Fuel Up to Play 60” initiative that encourages children to exercise and adopt healthy lifestyles. Silva never thought about the possibility of working for the Bears, until he saw a list of jobs posted by the team for the position of director of youth football and community programs.

“Just out of curiosity I looked at it and saw all the requirements and all the skills and sort of ticked them off one by one and I was like, ‘You know what, I could do that'” , did he declare.

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