Carmen Espinoza—a UCLA Theater Arts alumni has created a program that provides dozens of elementary school students the opportunity to experience the limelight.
After all, contributing exceptional acting talent to produce top quality short-films warrants a chance to walk down the red carpet at the Screen Actors Guild Auditorium.
Last year on May 10, approximately 24 students were presented “Grazi” awards during the First Annual Actors Showcase by Carmen Espinoza. The award is named after Graciano Gomez, the school’s namesake and renown Latino community organizer in San Bernardino. The theme of the festival was, “I have no fear, born to do this” and involved students in third, fourth, fifth and sixth grade.
Espinoza said he is planning on hosting the Second Annual Actors Showcase this spring; at this time the Coachella Valley native is preparing for the event. With the help of CSUSB Dean Emeritus Tom Rivera and his wife, Dr. Lily Rivera, Espinoza created his non-profit organization The Carmen Espinoza Young Actors Foundation.
“The kids they don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes, but that’s fine,” Espinoza said. “I want them to focus on the art itself. You don’t have to be that actor on TV or person you see on news. I simply want them to learn the art and embrace it.”
The program’s birth can be traced back to a conversation Espinoza had with Graciano Gomez Elementary School principal Socorro Gomez-Potter. The third grade teacher said he believed he presented the perfect idea for a student’s after school program.
“I spent several years perfecting the art of acting and working with elementary students to teach them how to act,” Espinoza explained. “When I relocated to Graziano Gomez Elementary last year, I spoke to the principal about the idea of teaching acting and she was very supportive. We were able to come up with great ideas to put together a team of actors.”
Espinoza said he began with the basics: teaching the young children about character development and how to fulfill their respective acting roles. After a while, he demanded for more, and to his surprise, the harder the students worked.
“It was very astonishing to see how quickly these kids could learn acting,” he said. “The more I asked the more that came.”
Espinoza subsequently began to write news scripts for his students for the could broadcast information via San Bernardino City Unified School District’s website stream channel. Support promptly tuned in, and shortly after the golden opportunity was created.
“I began to believe that my vision of producing a big show involving young students could really happen,” Espinoza explained. “I had the support of district and staff. They urged me to begin calling different places for support. A colleague suggested SAG and sure enough I spoke to them.”
The Screen Actors Guild was very generous and allowed Espinoza to rent the facility for his premiere event for a discount rate of $500.00.
Espinoza said he believes his program is the only one around in the entire nation and believes he and his students are making history.
“What makes this interesting and heartfelt we are the first Elementary school students club in the U.S. to pull something like this off. No other Elementary school offers this type of technique to this intensity,” he said. “ I know we can win an Oscar someday. Nothing can stop us but ourselves and our intentions. We’re all excited.”