CALEXICO — Amid the lockdowns, un-openings, and shutdowns of homes, businesses, and programs during the global pandemic, some schools are still working to keep their students engaged.
Calexico Unified School District’s William Moreno and Enrique Camarena Junior High Schools are holding their sixth annual Aztec Fire Talent Show, where Willie Moreno “Aztecs” and Kiki Camarena “Firebirds” get to show off their students’ skills less traditionally associated with academics, event coordinators said.
The two-school talent show, which airs online Thursday, January 28, will showcase 12 acts of students from both Calexico junior high schools, as has been customary since Co-Coordinator Martha Guillen became the Willie Moreno Associated Student Body director, she said.
“I was really good friends with the ASB director at Kiki Camarena at the time … so we wanted to have a joint event that showcased our students’ talents,” Guillen said. “It should be public because this is (normally) a public show.”
“The whole point is to do something fun that is not necessarily academic,” she said. “These days everything is academic and there's a push for doing well in school, and I thought there are lots of kids whose talents are not necessarily academic.”
“ASB has been planning a lot of events because I want the kids to feel a sense of community and to have something to look forward to and have a distraction other than being at home,” said event Co-Coordinator Allison Jaime, Kiki Camarena ASB adviser.
“A lot of them have expressed they are having problems with the whole thing: having to stay home, not seeing their friends,” Jaime said, “so this helps with that.”
Guillen said students’ acts have had a wide range including singing, karate, gymnastics, magicians, comedians, one-student scenes from self-written plays, and “lots of different things that kids are willing to share with the City.”
Guillen said because of the pandemic, most students are pre-recording their talent and submitting the videos to her or co-coordinator, Enrique Camarena ASB Adviser Allison Jaime, using a program named FlipGrid. The students recorded their videos at home.
Jaime said there have been some unique challenges holding a talent show virtually for teachers rather than live and in-person but, in some ways, the virtual format has been easier for the students as they have performed their talents in the comforts of their own homes.
“It's easier for the contestants because they don't get the actual chance for stage fright because they're not (live) on stage; for us, it’s harder because we have to get videos, make sure they are formatted a certain way, make sure they're appropriate and the background noise at the students homes and stuff like that,” Jaime said. “The hard part is making sure that whatever they send we can get (the videos) to the format that we need.”
Yet the virtual format has allowed students to showcase even more talents than normal, Jaime said, as one student will be able to submit a video of her horseback competitions and another has submitted a time-lapse video of their art creation from start to finish.
Guillen said the fame of their first Aztec Fire Talent Show winner — Yahir Garduño, a 17-year-old senior at Calexico High School who recently won Mexican talent show “Tengo Talento, Mucho Talento” and a Sony Music Latin recording contract in 2020 — has helped the coordinators advertise becoming part of the two-school talent show within the schools.
“The first time (Yahir) sang, he won in a mariachi outfit that our principal at the time loaned him,” Guillen said. “I do the Aztec News so what we do is film a little news of what is going on at school … so I made sure that, that was mentioned so I put a picture of him when he was in 7th grade and I let (our) students know.”
“I think that it's good for the community to see that our kids have these talents which they don't normally get the opportunity to share with everyone,” Jaime said.
For more information contact William Moreno Junior High School at (760) 768-3960 or Enrique Camarena Junior High School at (760) 768-3808.