PULLMAN, Wash. — Twenty-one students from Mabton, Warden and Pateros schools will give special performances throughout Central Washington, as part of a unique Washington State University outreach program. The first will be Friday, Aug. 12 on the WSU Pullman campus.

The high school students, consisting of 17 women and 4 men, are participating in a college readiness program called Performance As EducationJohn Fraire, vice president for WSU’s Office of Student Affairs and Enrollment and founder/director of Performance As Education, said the student participants have been exploring their cultures and writing about their own life experiences.
“One of the key components of the program is we bring together the students and their writings with professional theatre personnel,” Fraire said.  “The result is a professionally produced piece of theatre.”

The Performance As Education program provides a fresh approach to engaging youth in building skills that will help them become more successful students.  Such skills include writing, public speaking, working in teams, and setting priorities.  The end goal is to provide rural future first generation students with the tools they need to graduate from high school and go to college.

Fraire said the strategy is working.  He credits innovative outreach programs like Performance As Education for the significant increase in Chicana/o Latina/o student enrollment WSU has been experiencing in recent years.  Preliminary numbers indicate WSU Pullman could see as many as 200 more Chicana/o Latina/o freshman and transfer students enroll this fall compared to fall of 2010.

Students participating in Performance As Education will eventually face decisions of their own regarding college.  But right now they are keenly focused on preparing for five performances titled Las Memorias, 2011.  The public is invited to all of the free performances:

• Aug. 12, Washington State University, Pullman, WA, Jones Theatre in Daggy Hall, 7 p.m.
• Aug. 19, Wallenstein Theatre, Big Bend Community College, Moses Lake, WA,  7 p.m.
• Aug. 26, Wallenstein Theatre, Big Bend Community College, Moses Lake, WA, 11 a.m.
• Aug. 26, Columbia Basis College, Pasco, WA, 7:30 p.m.
• Sept. 2, Performance Arts Center of Wenatchee at the Stanley Civic Center, 10 a.m. 
Fraire grew up in the Mexican-American neighborhoods of Gary, Indiana.  He is a published playwright, founder of the New Latino Visions Theatre Company, and has worked with the Castillo Theatre in New York City.  Washington Governor Christine Gregoire recently appointed him to a second term as a Washington State Arts Commissioner.

WSU is partnering with Columbia Basin College, Big Bend Community College, and the Wenatchee Center for Performing Arts in making the inspirational stories told in Las Memorias 2011 accessible to underserved communities.  Performance As Education is sponsored by Enterprise Rental Car, State Farm Insurance, and WSU alumnus Bob Felton.