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Half dozen Mabton teens have key roles in WSY's Las Memorias production

MABTON - Mabton students performing in Las Memorias 2011 are showing their hopes for the future through a 45-minute production free to the public.

The show is part of WSU's Performance in Education, a college readiness program with the goal of increasing attendance and retention rates among underserved high school students.

John Fraire, WSU vice president for student affairs and enrollment, says the issue is not just about how many minorities go to college, "the issue is how many college graduates" come from the underserved population.

Students applied to the program as if they were applying for college by submitting applications and essays on their life goals and the challenges they've endured. The essays were then used by Fraire, who is also a playwright, to create a script for the students to perform.

AnaMaria Correa, an actress and educator from New York, traveled to Washington state to be the artistic director of the program. She was joined by a number of other theatrical professionals with a wealth of experience. According to the program website, the students are treated as professional actors and expected to perform "a head taller than where they are at."

Dave Mendoza, director of after-school programs at Mabton High School, says by expecting the best from students you get the best out of them. "This is not a typical high school production," he says. "We expected a lot from these students and they have delivered." The final result is a professional program grounded in the reality of the students' lives.

Mabton's involvement in the program began when Robert Morales, in charge of the AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) college readiness program, invited Fraire to do a presentation at the high school. Fraire was so impressed with the Mabton students that he invited them to submit applications for the program.

Six Mabton students are performing: Marlen Chavez, Isabela Ahumada, Fidel Orteaga, Karen Mendoza, Nohemi Meza and Jackie Cruz. Ahumada says that the experience was "amazing" and changed the way she views the world.

In a presentation to Mabton teachers yesterday, Fraire explained that going to talk with a teacher is performance, writing is performance, even walking down the street is a sort of performance. He says "life is about performance." Teaching students to perform at their best helps them in all aspects of life.

He recounted a story of how one of the students in Las Memorias 2011 wrote him a casual e-mail with poor grammar and spelling. He reminded her she was communicating with a WSU VP and not her best friend, and her performance should always reflect the audience. Her future notes improved.

Fraire sees Performance in Education as an investment in the future. He says, "We are investing in these students and expect them to give back" to society.

Las Memorias 2011 has five performances scheduled. It started in Pullman last Friday and culminates in Wenatchee on Sept. 2.

Mabton is providing free bus rides for those who want to watch the Friday, Aug. 26, performance at Columbia Basin College in Pasco. People should arrive at Mabton High School at 6 p.m. and be ready for a moving and uplifting show.

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