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Mariachi Festival showcases local, national talent

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This week, hundreds of local students are getting expert coaching as part of the 15th annual Mariachi Northwest Festival. The program culminates with a student concert at 7 p.m. on Friday and two professional benefit concerts on Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the Wenatchee High School Auditorium.

The headliners Saturday include recording artist Beatriz Adriana, Mariachi La Voz de Mexico and Balladores de Bronce.

The Mariachi program changes lives. I was introduced this week to Leticia Mendoza, who started performing at Foothills Middle School and graduated from Wenatchee High School in 2012.

She's currently a student at Wenatchee Valley College and is preparing for a career in accounting. Mendoza is a confident and articulate young woman who benefited greatly from the nationally recognized Mariachi program in the Wenatchee School District. Being exposed to college campuses by performing music showed her that a college degree was possible. Programs that nurture those dreams are priceless for the students and crucial for the future of our communities.

Mendoza's sister Cristina is a second-year student at WVC and was the first person in her family to go to college. She encouraged Leticia to join the Mariachi program in middle school and a whole new world opened up. Coming from a migrant family, "I never thought I was going to be able to go to college," Mendoza said. Along the way, she learned that there were resources available to ambitious students who applied themselves to their studies.

One of the hallmarks of the Mariachi program is the confidence that kids develop as they are challenged to perform at s high level in front of audiences all over the state, said Jesus Hernandez, who has been instrumental in the development of the Mariachi Northwest Festival.

The festival has evolved over time into an event that celebrates building pathways to higher education. Hernandez, who served on the Higher Education Coordinating Board before it was disbanded, has worked with Central Washington University and Eastern Washington University to develop scholarships to those schools that will be awarded this week.

We are so fortunate to have strong programs like Mariachi that inspire kids to stay in school, get an education and that expose them to new career possibilities. More information can be found by visiting For a look at my video interview with Mendoza and Hernandez, please click on the video link below.

Interview with Mendoza and Hernandez