By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – Students in the South Oklahoma City area will have the opportunity to enroll in a Fall Mariachi After School Program led by Academia OKC, a program sponsored by Scissortail Community Development Corporation. Classes, which emphasize culturally relevant music, will begin on August 26 and will take place every day from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Scissortail CDC offices at 302 SW 25th Street.
A non-profit organization, Academia Oklahoma City develops programs that include various art forms such as usic, visual arts, dance and theater. The first pilot program was launched in 2016 as a summer camp and was highly successful. From that was born the first in-school program at Shidler Elementary School.
“Because the tradition is so ingrained in the history of the Hispanic families of Oklahoma City, this becomes an excellent way to engage parents as well. Parents participate in more than just attending performances,” said Robert Ruiz, President, Scissortail CDC. “They engage with preparing uniforms, hair and makeup for the female performers, and many times finding presentation opportunities for these groups in the community.
“One new development is that we will be able to scholarship all of the students, so there will be no fee to attend,” Ruiz stated. Students can enroll online here.
Students who are not able to attend every day, can still participate in the program, through dedicated practice at home in order to keep up with the class.
Academia OKC’s new afterschool program follows Scissortail’s two mariachi summer camps held at Oklahoma City Community College in June. At the end of this year’s camps, parents attended a standing-room only performance at the Ron Norick Downtown Public Library.
The Oklahoma Arts Council receives support from the State of Oklahoma and the National Endowment for the Arts.
The press release states that schools that will no longer hold mariachi classes include Roosevelt, Webster, and Jefferson. Schools that will have mariachi classes include Cristo Rey Oklahoma City Catholic High School and Shidler Elementary.
To ensure continued availability of mariachi classes to as many students as possible, Scissortail CDC formed an after-school mariachi program open to the community in South OKC.
Scissortail CDC is a nonprofit that works to change lives through engagement and creativity with Hispanic youth, which will lead to strong, positive outcomes for Oklahoma City. Academia OKC, a program of Scissortail CDC, was established in 2016 to help provide culturally relevant art in Oklahoma City Schools. These programs help to engage students through graduation and to showcase Hispanic heritage.
The U.S. Hispanic population reached a record 59.9 million in 2018, up 1.2 million over the previous year and up from 47.8 million in 2008, as reported by a newly released U.S. Census Bureau population estimates.
According to the Scissortail CDC press release, Hispanic youth is the fastest growing demographic in Oklahoma City with a birthrate of approximately 20 percent of total births in the metro area, and with elementary schools in the Oklahoma City public schools now majority Hispanic.
Scissortail CDC believes that finding ways to engage these students and their families is of extreme importance to the future of OKC.
Throughout the last 20 years, mariachi programs have flourished throughout the southwest United States with programs at the elementary, middle school, high school and even university level.
As a major part of the Hispanic culture, interest in Mariachi music continues even in acculturated Hispanic communities, the release stated.
Amando Ayala, Principal of Shidler Elementary stated, “Only 5 percent of our kids were ready at grade level or higher schoolwide. So, we did a lot of reforms and Academia has been essential in helping us to stimulate higher order thinking skills.
“Because kids are using a lot of brainpower in the reading of the music, translating these abstract concepts and ideas into something that is presented live” Ayala said. “So, all of these very awesome brainpowers are being put in place, and of course this translates into learning in math, science, reading, and everything so it’s having a powerful impact.”
“In many instances, it is hard for parents to be involved in the school lives of their children because of the lack of common experience,” Ruiz said. “Mariachi programs are a way to have parents share a part of familiar culture with their children and encourage that growth.
For more information, visit academiaok.org. Individuals interested in supporting this and other Academia OKC programs can contact Robert Ruiz at 405-414-0444.