Campus: CSU Northridge -- July 21, 2004

Migrant Students Spending July Immersed in the Arts at CSUN

About 50 high schoolers from across Los Angeles County--all children of migrant workers--are spending this month at Cal State Northridge taking part in an innovative program that exposes them to the arts.

The students are taking classes in theatre, dance, poetry, voice, filmmaking and the visual arts over the course of three weeks, with the Theater Arts Program culminating in a performance to showcase what they've learned on Thursday, July 29, in Northridge's Grand Salon in the University Student Union.

"It's a pretty intense three weeks," said Do-a Guevara-Hill, project director for the Migrant Youth Theater Program 2004 and a member of California Youth Theater, which coordinates the program for the Los Angeles County Office of Education's Migrant Education Program. "Many of these kids have never really been exposed to the arts before. But when the showcase comes around, it's just amazing what they can do."

Amelia Moreno, a member of the county's Migrant Education Program, said this year is the 10th anniversary of the arts program. The students will mark the occasion at the July 29 celebration by performing some of the artistic pieces created in the program over the years.

"Many of them are very moving," she said.

The performance is slated to begin at 7 p.m.

Classes during the three-week program, which began July 11, are led by professionals in the arts, including Cal State Northridge faculty, who help the young people "find their own voices and express themselves," Guevara-Hill said.

She pointed out that for many of the students, English is not their first language. Participating in the program helps them increase their English skills, Guevara-Hill said.

Cal State Northridge cinema and television arts professor Nate Thomas said he is "blown away" by the excitement and dedication the students bring to their projects.

"These kids have some amazing stories to tell," said Thomas, who teaches filmmaking to the students. "We're just helping them find a way to tell them.

"Many of these kids have never really thought of the arts, and in my case filmmaking, as a option for themselves before," he said. "It's great to see them get interested, and then excited about the prospect. It's really something to see. Some of them have some real talent, and they just didn't know how to express it before this."

Moreno said the arts program also provides an opportunity to expose the high schoolers to college life.

"They can see what a college campus is really like," she said, "that it is not a scary place, but some place that they can aspire to attend some day."

Thomas said he is still in touch with some of the students he taught in last year's program.

"I hope to some day maybe even have them in my CSUN classes," he said.

Contact: Carmen Ramos Chandler (818) 677-2130,

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