LOS ANGELES -- Between fitting in and trying to get good grades, teens also need to find a way to express themselves. That’s why Cesar Flores, a 10th-grader at David Starr Jordan High School joined the performing arts program led by Nicolas Corona.
Cesar said it’s an extracurricular he looks forward too.
“Theater was made for me…it’s a perfect way to express how you are feeling without addressing it, specifically. So like, if you are having a bad day, you can just come in theater and spread how you are feeling out on the stage and just leave it there,” said Cesar.
Cesar is one of nine performing arts students at the high school. For more than a decade, the school went without an arts program to focus on developing the culture and community of the school as a whole.
But two years ago, Corona changed that by providing students like Cesar an outlet through the performing arts.
“I feel like for acting specifically, not a lot of people are, how do you say, 'supportive' of it. Like they think it’s a waste of time and they think the only way to be successful in school is to like major in law or something else. But, theater really is important,” Cesar said.
Corona said he feels the same way.
That’s why he made it his mission to help students perform, find their own voice and create a sense of community by creating the performing arts program for students.
“It is such a necessity in feeling that you can vocalize all the things that you are processing and figure out how to define your identity and have a space to feel heard and not just be screaming out into the void,” Corona said.
Corona received the Lundquist Courageous Teachers Award at this year’s 11th annual UPawards ceremony hosted by the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools. He was one of 18 teachers who received the award that recognized the impact teachers were making on students' lives.
“Mr. Corona has really been one of those really important for the arts here at Jordan and brought together like-minded individuals to identify what the gaps are,” said Rubi Fregoso with Partnership for Los Angeles Schools.
According to Fregoso, Corona’s work with the performing arts program is paving a path for future art programs. Next year, students will have access to learning more about digital media arts. Cesar said being able to express himself through performing arts after school has created a second home for him.
“It means the world to me because starting as a ninth-grader, I didn’t really have a lot of friends and for all, for the people that came into the original group, I consider them some of my closest friends,” he said.
That’s why Cesar said he’ll continue to pursue his talent and perform in his fourth play, Evelyn in Purgatory, with the program this June as long as Corona is there to mentor him.