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About 100 SMJUHSD students and several Ethnic and Gender Studies educators recently saw the play Valley of the Heart, an epic World War II story about love, family and country written by the Chicano playwright Luis Valdez at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles.

The group also toured UCLA and attended a presentation by the Spanish Department in conjunction with the LA Escena theater group. The panel shared about the university’s Diversifying the Classics Project, which is dedicated to promoting diversity in the theater by introducing directors, actors, and audiences to the extensive canon of early modern Hispanic drama produced both in Spain and Latin America. Their mission is to translate the classics into English and create publications, educational initiatives and ongoing partnerships with theater companies.

The performance portrayed the uncertainties and solidarity of two families; one Mexican American and one Japanese American immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

“This play allowed for our students to reflect on our commonalities and experiences as Americans from the lens of an ethnic minority,’’ said Righetti Spanish Teacher Patricia Villalobos. “Education can be accomplished through reading, writing and critical discussion, but why not through the visual and performing arts? I decided to organize a trip to see Valley of the Heart so that students could experience the beauty and educational value of live theater. It is another way of creating a “classroom environment” for them to learn and reflect on the topics that are being covered in our textbooks.’’

Students from RHS, PVHS and SMHS made the most of the opportunities.

“Valley of the Heart was a truly inspirational play. Not only was it amazing but it was a privilege to see a play written by a fellow Hispanic, showing us that our voice does matter in the world.” – Maria Bonilla, ERHS, 11th grade.

“My favorite part of the field trip was the play Valley of the Heart by Luis Valdez because it was well done and it talked about immigrants’ lives and the constant fear they live in just to have a better future.” – Jazmin Felix, ERHS, 10th grade.

“I believe that the trip to UCLA was an epic experience. I loved the show Valley of the Heart because Luis Valdez seems to have a way of educating us while we enjoy the show. UCLA is beautiful, and don’t get me started on the track and field, coming from someone who spends most of their time having to see the same thing over and over again, I’d never get tired of the view.” – Mireya Leon, ERHS, 10th grade.

“At first I felt very hesitant about going to UCLA after high school. But after this trip, I know for sure I want to go to UCLA. I’m more confident now about going to college.” - Margarita Gallardo, 10th grade, SMHS.

“This trip was memorable because not only did we get to collaborate with other high schools, but we also got to see a play that was entertaining and educational. I would recommend other students take these Ethnic Studies classes because you learn history through actions and not just books.” - Fatima Gutierrez, 12th grade, SMHS.

“I would recommend to the district to provide the high schools more trips like this to motivate students and explore options on schools and subjects people can major in.” - Yadira Prado, 12th grade, SMHS.

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