EPISD schools perform with Kids Excel at Plaza Theater
School busloads of EPISD elementary students crowded into the Plaza Theater Thursday to see their peers perform in the Kids Excel end-of-school finale. The singing and dancing extravaganza featured a medley of songs through the ages, sprinkled in with messages reinforcing healthy living.
Fourth-graders from Newman, Polk and Roberts elementary joined with Canutillo ISD’s Damian Elementary for the performance. The four campuses are among 31 schools citywide participating in Kids Excel this school year. Each year, the non-profit organization selects a handful of schools to perform in the finale. Two more performances will be staged Friday.
“We’re teaching the children through dance and music how to make healthy choices and live a healthier lifestyle,” said Courtney Elam, Kids Excel executive director. “Each school does a different dance and then the finale is with all of them.”
The students were awestruck performing at the Plaza, looking up at the star-lit sky and breathing in the elegance of the historic theater. For many it was their first visit to the Plaza, and a one-in-a-lifetime experience dancing under the bright lights on stage and commanding roars of applause from the audience.
“The look on their faces is priceless,” Elam said. “They really come alive here. This experience will stay with them forever.”
This year’s show “I know I can: Lessons from Mount Nutritious” features messaging from Zeus and three baby carrots. The Kids Excel Band kept the high-energy program moving with recognizable hits such as “Footloose,” “You Should be Dancing,” “Jump,” “Beat It,” “Walking on Sunshine,””Mr. Sandman” and “Mambo No. 5.” Lead singer Sam Rodriguez changed up the lyrics of the popular songs to match the message. He often trading vocals for his trombone.
The main characters presented a new topic and music and dancing to accompany the segment. Travis Elementary fifth grader Jaiden McDowell played the powerful Greek god. His white hair and beard gave him great him stage presence.
“It’s a really fun job,” said Jaiden, who returned to Kids Excel after participating as fourth grader last year. “It has helped me do better with focusing and stage fright. I want to be an actor when I grow up.”
Jaiden’s character led the audience through a variety of healthy living themes such as the importance of eating fruits and veggies, getting enough sleep, exercising, eating breakfast, positive self messaging, limiting screen time and drinking milk. Each message featured dancing and a little humor.
“It’s fun,” said Roberts 4th grader Adison Lopez. “We are going to make you laugh.”
The show also included a Motown sequence with just the teachers dancing to “Respect.” Singer Laura Tate joined the teachers on stage, belting out the Aretha Franklin number while teachers introduced the positive self-messaging segment.
“A lot of the teachers have been doing the practices with the students. It helps us keep healthy, too,” said Alison Garcia, a fourth grade teacher at Roberts. “The students like seeing us do it. It makes a better bond between the students and teachers.”
Kids Excel curriculum reinforces what is learned in the classroom, giving students an outlet to learn more about the arts while supporting the TEKS.
“We feel like the arts is a tool, so we are really teaching excellence in work ethic and teamwork,” Elam said. “The children learn grit and tenacity and to never give up and always do their personal best. They are having fun but we are teaching them life skills that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.”