Nestled deep in the San Fernando Valley is Pacoima, a Latino-heavy working-class Los Angeles-area neighborhood with high crime activity and poverty rate. But it’s not all gloom and doom in Pacoima. The neighborhood’s Haddon Avenue Elementary School has implemented engaging and playful learning opportunities for its young students through its STEAM-rich (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) academic programs. One of those enrichment clubs is its Woodcraft Rangers mariachi club.
The Woodcraft Rangers Mariachi Club is the only one of its kind in the Los Angeles Unified School District.
There are currently 40 performers in the ensemble, aged 6 to 11, who are learning to play instruments found in traditional mariachi music.
These pint-sized performers are so popular there’s a waiting list to join the club.
There is also a steady stream of requests to play performances at local parades, festivals and dinners, according to NBC Los Angeles.
“This is the home of Ritchie Valens, so when Jackie from Woodcraft said, ‘Hey, this is something we should bring to the school,’ I was like, all my chips are in because these kids really need the arts,” said Richard Ramos, principal of Haddon Avenue Elementary School.
But the program is doing more than expose these kids to the arts — it’s also helping them to stay in school.
School attendance at Haddon has increased. Not just that, but it’s helping improve the kids’ behavior. Ramos tells Fox 11 that a third grader curbed his bad behavior so he could join the mariachi program.
“One of the benefits that we’ve seen, is that the students that are participating, are doing better in class, and that’s significant for me as a principal because we want our kids to do better,” Ramos said.
With its increasing popularity, he is contemplating making the program available five days a week.