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Sidney students take first at cultural expressions competition

Group created mural, performed skit


For The Sun-Telegraph

Students from Sidney finished first in a cultural expressions competition in Denver. The students, pictured from left, are: Sonya Virgil, Mia Hernandez, Yoselin Parra, Lindsey Deaver, Angeles Alvaro, Karla Palomares, Alfredo Balandran Jr., Melissa Rodriguez and Calista Bowen. Not pictured: Vincent Hernandez, William Draper, Dante Petersen, Autumn Holly, Abbilea Hudspeth and Zoraida Parra.

A group of Sidney High School students took home a pair of first-place finishes at a cultural expressions competition in Denver earlier this month.

The Metropolitan State University of Denver Chicano/a Studies Department Journey through our Heritage Program hosted the competition Dec. 11.

Brett Avila, a teacher at Sidney High School, said it was the first time the school attended the event and the group participated in the skit and mural categories. Avila said he learned of the program while on a field trip to the university in September.

"I was informed about the annual art competition where young people are able to explore heritage through murals, artistic skits and videos," he said.

He invited all of his students to participate in the project this fall.

"They came in during lunch hours and brainstormed about what wanted to include in the mural and video," he added.

With a concept identified, meetings expanded to weekends to complete the work.

"They worked easily more than 100 hours on the project," he said.

As a first-year team, Avila said the group didn't know what to expect at the competition.

"And then we won first place," he said.

The top-place finishes gave the students an immense sense of pride, the teacher added.

Nine students – Angeles Alvarado, Alfredo Balandran Jr., Calista Bowen, Lindsey Deaver, Mia Hernandez, Karla Palomares, Yoselin Parra, Melissa Rodriguez and Sonya Virgil – traveled to Denver for the competition, which was held in a historic church.

William Draper, Vincent Hernandez, Autumn Holly, Abbilea Hudspeth, Zoraida Parra and Dante Peterson also participated in the project by contributing ideas and work on the mural and video.

Mia Hernandez, a senior, said she enjoyed the collaborative aspect of the work. The group's mural depicts a Hispanic woman washing a window, she explained.

"The part that she hasn't washed is dirty and shows negative things Hispanics have been called," she said. "The part that is cleaned shows positive things about Hispanic heritage and culture."

Everyone came together with different ideas to complete the mural, she said.

"Our ideas worked really well together," she added.

Alvarado, also a senior, said as a Hispanic, she loves learning about her heritage.

Working on the project gave her an opportunity to express who she is as a person and help shatter stereotypes, she said.

For the skit, students stood in front of a screen that displayed a fire. Each student individually stood in front of the fire with a paper displaying a stereotype.

"They'd read the stereotype and then rip that piece off," Alvarado explained.

She said she enjoyed working with her classmates on the skit and mural.

"It was such an enlightening experience, to have help from everyone," she explained.

About 10 other groups – with students of all ages – also presented their work in Denver.

"We were surrounded by so many people – that were like you and have gone through the same things as you," Alvarado said. "It was like being home."

A group of Aztec talk dancers performed at the competition, and Avila said he has plans to invite them to Sidney for school and community performances.

The students will present their mural to the Sidney School Board and explain its symbolism at its next meeting scheduled for Monday, Jan. 11.


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