STOCKTON, Calif. — Through a Mexican tradition known as mariachi, students in Stockton have the opportunity to excel and learn life skills.
At Cesar Chavez High School in Stockton, mariachi has become a way of life for students. On Friday, the school is holding a first-of-its-kind event to support their students.
"It feels like I'm free to do, like to express myself finally as I want to. Because before it always seemed like a stereotype. It always seemed like, "Oh, do mariachi because you're Mexican," said Damian Paniagua, a senior
Paniagua said he doesn't know what he'd be doing if he wasn't enrolled in one of the mariachi elective courses. On Thursday, he and his classmates were preparing for Friday's first-ever scholastic Stockton Mariachi Festival.
"All the money that is fundraised in tomorrow's event goes towards growing into a conference. The goal is to bring in a professional group from LA, one day maybe Mexico," said Luis Talamantes, the event organizer.
Students can then one day learn from world-renowned musicians, and go on to fund their own college educations by playing with a mariachi in the community.
"Aside from the CTE credit that students get from enrolling in my class, they also qualify for their fine arts credit that they need to graduate and also qualifies them to go to college. So many of my students have gone on to college and paid their way," said Talamantes.
Stockton Unified School District is planning to launching six more programs in the next two years.
Former student Caroline Burke-Baker said her love for mariachi has led her to return to the school district to teach.
"I wouldn't be who I am without the music. It's the whole reason I want to continue the cycle to give back," said Burke-Baker.
The music is allowing students to pursue their dreams.
"Especially just having graduated, like that was always what I wanted as a kid. So to see me doing that, it's very awesome," said Ellie Aquino, a performer.
About 60 Cesar Chavez students will be participating. All community members are welcomed to the Scholastic Stockton Mariachi festival at the school.
Tickets for children two to 12 are $5. Two and under are free, and everyone else is $10. All the money that is fundraised goes into growing a conference.