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'Arts are key to the future,' Migrant Junior Otters told

July 30, 2010

Nationally honored program 'graduates' its second class

"The arts are a way to touch the heart," Luis Valdez told a group assembled in the University Center at CSU Monterey Bay on July 30. "And, above all, the arts are the key to the future."

Valdez, founder of El Teatro Campesino and an original faculty member at CSUMB, spoke to an audience of 250 youngsters, their parents, and educators from the Monterey County Office of Education and the university.

His remarks were made at the graduation ceremonies of the Migrant Junior Otters program. A collaboration among CSUMB, county Office of Education and El Teatro Campesino, the program involves youngsters in grades four through eight from 10 Monterey County school districts.

During the month of July, the youngsters were brought to campus each day, where they received instruction in language arts and math in the morning. Each afternoon, they were involved in theater activities, including music, dance and art, taught by staff members of El Teatro. The youngsters were also introduced to college life and learned what it takes to be a successful student.

Carl Del Grande, administrator with the Migrant Education, Region XVI office and principal of the Junior Otters program, emphasized its success.

"We can point to scores in language arts that prove this program works," he told the audience. Then he reminded the youngsters, "This is your hometown university."

Rosa Coronado, MCOE migrant education director, also praised the program.

"This program was recognized at the 2010 National Migrant Education Conference. It's a nationally known collaboration," she said.

"Our goal is to ensure that our migrant students see themselves as future college students, and this collaboration makes that possible."

After remarks by Valdez and several administrators, the youngsters showed off their work, performing fables they had transformed into musical pieces.

*Photos by Don Porter Top: Luis Valdez Above: Audience listens attentively to Luis Valdez Left: Students perform for their families *