By Mario Tarradell, Public Relations & Marketing Manager
A newly planted oak tree grows symbolically in front of the Oak Cliff Cultural Center. The young tree, donated by Home Depot, became an emblem of growth for the 2015 installment of Cara Mía Theatre Co.’s The School of YES!, the Big Thought Thriving Minds Summer Camp at Oak Cliff Cultural Center.
That oak inspired the 55 kids in attendance, a 60 percent Hispanic group ranging in ages from 7-17, for four weeks of dance, theater, music, visual arts and film. Oak Cliff Cultural Center sits on Jefferson Boulevard, and is integral to the district’s Hispanic heartbeat, which is about 76 percent Latino. Here every month is a celebration of Hispanic heritage.
The School of YES!, created by Cara Mía Theatre Co., spread out through three rooms – the art gallery space transformed into a theater, a storage room became the film studio, and a wood-floored area was used for music and dance.
“When it came to the actual planting of the tree we had a little ceremony,” says Gerardo Robles, Cultural Programs Coordinator for Oak Cliff Cultural Center. “All the kids started cheering. It was a very touching moment. The kids planted the tree; they got involved in its growth. They jumped in and got their hands in the dirt.”
Stephanie Cleghorn Jasso, administrative assistant with Cara Mía Theatre Co., has a similar story to tell about maturing, nurturing and transforming.
“We had a little boy, about 7 years old,” she says. “It was his first time doing a camp for an extended period and for the whole day. He was really shy at first, quiet and withdrawn. I saw how much he grew. He started making friends and telling stories. In four weeks his personality changed. He became confident and talkative.”
Nine student leaders acting as big brothers and big sisters created a learning atmosphere of inclusion, development and teamwork. The student leaders took it upon themselves to create lesson plans, Robles said. So all the students were ready for the final performance.
“We had one student that had a really rough time in dance class,” remembers Cleghorn Jasso. “He was really emotional, not sure he could do it. So when he did it during the final performance, it was so emotional in the best way.”