Last year, teacher Peggy Jimenez brought her Hayes Middle School students to Popejoy Hall to see Barrio Grrrl!, a musical included in our Schooltime Series. The show focused on 9-year-old Ana, whose mother had been called up to serve in Iraq, and the challenges of Ana’s life with a missing mother and no father.
After the play, the students took a tour of the UNM campus. Most had never been to the campus before, certainly not to see the academic side of life. The trip was particularly important to Peggy’s students, all of whom were in the AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program, designed to get each of those students to graduate high school and move on to college.
While touring the campus, Peggy told her students to look through the windows into the classes as they passed by to see the college students taking notes, discussing topics and generally participating in campus life.
Once back at Hayes, Peggy challenged her students to tell her what they learned, what they saw. One of the biggest lessons for her students, she told me, came from just seeing a show performed live on a stage. For most of them, it was the first time in their lives they'd had that opportunity. However, she expanded more than their horizons. She made them think about the messages of the shows, that there could be messages in shows. Shows, plural, because she also brought them to a play called Runt of the Litter. At the very least, the shows expanded their vocabularies. Some didn't know the word runt, she said.
Tickets to Runt of the Litter were free for Peggy’s students. The Urban Enhancement Trust Fund provides money for Title I schools to attend shows in the Schooltime Series. Tickets to Schooltime events are normally only $2, but even that small sum can be a hurdle for students whose family income qualifies them for Title I participation. AVID funds paid for the Barrio Grrrl! tickets.
The Popejoy Schooltime Series has been offering students in the greater metro area the opportunity to come to the UNM campus to see hour-long shows geared for their grade level since 1996. In some cases, the shows are truncated versions of events in the Popejoy Presents series (like Macbeth or Mariachi Christmas), but most are performances brought here specifically for the student population. The shows are designed for a range of grade levels, from Pre-K through 12th.
Peggy is looking forward to Monday morning. At 7:30, teachers in APS Title I schools can sign up for their choice of Schooltime Shows for the coming season. Peggy has her sights set on The Shape of a Girl, a play that concerns bullying and the sometimes terrifying consequences it brings. She's also thinking about bringing her students to Macbeth. She'll have a lot of competition: the funding for Title I tickets to Schooltime shows often runs out in half an hour.
Not all Title I schools get the free tickets. Only the most economically challenged among them — the poorest of the poor — get that chance. Our limited funds limit these opportunities and thus the horizons for students whose outlooks are too often desperately finite already. We hope to see Peggy and her students again this season. It just depends on how lucky she gets Monday morning between 7:30 and 8.
Terry S. Davis