The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:
Can learning about your own identity play a role in your academic educational success?
According to research, students who participate in art projects and experience success, improve their academic performance and acquire more self-confidence. One can notice during the Parent Recital, that the students are exuberant with pride when they describe their art pieces and talk about the artistic processes they used, articulate their goals, read their essays and poetry, perform their musical program (singing or playing the recorder) and dance their waltz learned during the session.
When working on their self-identity art project, the students begin with an essay including lifelong goals. Base on this essay, the students develop their art pieces.
In the fall, Garden City students’ art pieces were related to the Mexican cultural tradition of Dia de Muertos. Guided by artist, Bobby Gaytan, they painted colorful skulls surrounded by symbols that represented their lives and dreams for their future. With the help of writer, Guisela Bahruth, they created their own myths and in their ballroom dance class with instructor, Natalie Gallegos, they went through the process of learning how to present their dance in public. Musician Angel Bustos taught them to play the recorder. The students presented
their program community presentation at the Dia de Muertos Festival.
In the spring, as part of the self-identity art project, Nampa students painted their own portrait based on their photograph. Besides writing, singing and dancing, they made wax flowers which were given to the families in advent of Mother’s Day!
The field trips to BSU were welcomed by the two groups of students.
At the conclusion of the project, students responded to questions related to the identified Standards:
The students like the fact that this program focusses on the tradition of Quinceanera that celebrates the rite-of-passage or transition from children to adulthood.
Their art project is based on the students’ personal essays and dreams for their future. As time goes by, they group refine their artistic techniques with the help of the artists and instructors in preparation for the Parent Recital and the Community Presentations,
At the recital, the students read their essays, describe their art pieces and talk about the process. This teaches them that art conveys meaning. Later they sing their song, dance their waltz, and talk about what they got out of the SSQP Program.
Many students decide to improve their Spanish language skills. This is an improvement in a society where Spanish is not valued, where bilingual students hide the fact that they speak Spanish for fear of being marginalized.
The students also learn leadership as it happens during their public performances where they learn to depend on each other. This is a valuable skill that is often attributed to sport teams, but seldom to artistic endeavors.
At the end of the program, the students have told us they feel valued by their parents, siblings, extended family and community.
Prevention programs like this make a tremendous impact in the Latino community, motivating not only the middle school students to stay in school, and inspires their parents to continue their own education and break the cycle of poverty.”
The clearly defined goal of the Parent Recital at the end of the program, allows the students and their parents the opportunity to celebrate their success and provides the motivation of the program. It is an opportunity for the parents and families to celebrate and value their children. The program provides the main dish, beverages, and cake, but families bring a dish to share. The students look elegant, confident and proud (the program owns formal dresses in several sizes and white elegant shirts/guayaveras for the boys.)
To some people this may look superfluous, but in a competitive society where many of these students fall through the cracks, a celebration that focuses on the students’ commitments to staying in school is quite important.
By inviting the whole family to participate in the cultural presentations at community festivals, a stronger community bond is built. All of the above makes an impact in the lives of the young participants of the SSQP program and their families.
The project as a whole is a very effective way to motivate the young students to improve their behavior and academic performance and most importantly, to stay in school!
The goal of the Stay-in-School Quinceanera Program is to help students learn about themselves; who they are and what steps they need to take to create the path toward the career they want to pursue. The SSQP program plants the seed and gives students awareness of their educational opportunities in their schools and out in their communities.
Latino community leaders present workshops and lessons that can make a difference in their lives. By exposing the students to role models, these young people learn that there are people with similar challenges, that were able to succeed by focusing on their education and taking care of themselves. One of the workshops the program presents is actually entitled “Cuidate!” which means Take Care of Yourself. This workshop allows the students to share peer pressure stories and situations they have encountered during the lives as students. It is also very important to listen to Latino college students share their experiences on how they themselves “survived” and excelled in high school.
Our recommendations to others working with Latino youth, would be to include Latino instructors and artists. Working with Latino role models – artists, instructors, and presenters – the students get inspired and learn that there is a community willing to support them in their educational endeavors. In the SSQP program, one can readily see that many students look for this type of mentors and they readily open up and share their stories. By doing this, they learn about themselves and get the desire to improve their lives in order to make a difference in their communities.