Students Find Path to College Through Mariachi Music

Wenatchee High School

Eight members of the Wenatchee High School mariachi band have something to celebrate this week.

The students, who are all the sons and daughters of Latino farmworkers, were accepted to Washington State University. All eight are the first in their families to gain admission to college. 

“They could be the next lawyers, senators, doctors, and the next president of the United States,” Ramon Rivera, their band director, told a cheering theatre crowd during one of the mariachi band's shows this past weekend. 

School officials say the mariachi program was created to connect children of farmworkers with their heritage. The class has helped students center themselves with their culture, and has even helped graduation rates, according to The Huffington Post. 

“Mariachi is a leadership class for our students because it teaches them self-discipline, teaches them to work hard, teaches them how to be on time, teaches them to speak in front of an audience,” Rivera said. “These are skills that can’t be put down on a test.”

Wenatchee, which is located in north central Washington, is a town built on agriculture, sending millions of apples, cherries, and pears worldwide. Much of the fruit is picked by immigration farmworkers from Mexico and Central America, and many of the children work summers in the fields. 

Rivera moved from the Los Angeles area to Wenatchee in 2006 to take over the school's mariachi program. Since then, he's transformed the program, motivating his kids to focus on higher education. 

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