Seven students, (Giselly Rodriguez, Ilynn Camal, ( First formers) Brittany Cornejo, Shanilly Arceo, Mark Flowers, (Second formers) Neslen Rivero and Chelsea Munoz (Third formers), along with the vice principal (Mrs. Conchita Flota) and the school counselor (Ms. Alexis Guerrero) from San Pedro High School were invited to participate in a one week exchange program with Los Angeles Harbor College (LAHC).
The students and staff members were officially invited by Professor Juan Baez, present Chairman of the Theatre Department at LAHC and were in Los Angeles, California from Saturday, May 24, 2014 to Saturday, May 31, 2014. This contact was established through now retired Professor, Larry Heimgartner and his wife, Debbie Heimgartner (current costume designer for the Theatre Department at LAHC) both of whom have been dear friends of San Pedro High School for over a decade now.
The purpose of this exchange program was to connect SPHS students with students from other countries in an effort to work together on a project called “Our World”. This project was created by Professor Larry Heimgartner, and it helps spread awareness through dramatization and other forms of creative arts (dance and song) on different social ills affecting young people, in particular.
The project that SPHS students worked on was from the “Our World V: Zanzibar Edition” which focuses on the environment, and specifically looks at the issues of food, water and shelter shortage. Because this is a global project, the piece written can be applied to any country in the world. However, this piece can be modified to be more specific. As such, Professor Heimgartner has expressed his desire to write a piece specifically for Belize and San Pedro, which high school students will then learn and deliver. The pieces are exceptionally well written, and when delivered on point, they not only spread awareness, but they incite deep and thoughtful discussions among the young people. This was witnessed after students completed their final rehearsal of the Zanzibar Edition. A few students became very emotional, and others delivered insightful feedback about the project and the impact it had on them.
Prior to rehearsals, SPHS students had the opportunity to experience some of the fun attractions that Los Angeles has to offer. They spent a day at Disney Land, Universal Studios Hollywood, and a day touring Venice Beach and the Santa Monica Pier. These experiences, though not directly linked to the project are beneficial to the students’ growth, because they inspire students to dream bigger and it widens their horizons to see the endless possibilities. As a developing country, many young people will never have the opportunity to experience what these seven students were fortunate to experience. In explaining this to the seven students, the school has asked them to share their experience with others and continue to make a positive difference in their lives.
These students represented San Pedro High School and Belize in such an honorable manner. Throughout the trip, not only were they all very well behaved, but they proudly represented the school when they showcased their talents. The students were given time to prepare a piece in the morning and deliver it in the evening to drama professors, drama students, and other invited guests from the college. Two students sang, four students danced, and one student delivered a poem (due to music malfunction). They presented these pieces along with other students from LAHC who also presented their own pieces. At the end of the show, everyone in attendance applauded for the students, and they received positive feedback from the different drama professors present.
This trip was so special, not only to the students, but also to the staff members present. Students were seen in a different light, and this group formed such a special bond with one another, as well as with the people that they met. It was an emotionally charged farewell, but it gives students and the school reassurance that it was a trip well worth all the effort and hard work. The School faculty and staff are happy to see that the students want to continue working on the project and as a follow up on this experience, they will be forming a club called “The Our World Project” which interested students will be invited to be a part of.
San Pedro High would like to extend their sincerest gratitude to everyone who helped make this trip for students a possibility. No matter how big or how small your contribution was, please know that you have helped change the life of at least one of our students who participated in the exchange. SPHS hopes to “keep the ball rolling” on this program for the following year, as they have seen how invaluable this experience has been to the students!