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A trip to Disneyland was more than just a ride on Space Mountain for a group of students at Hanford West High School.

Students from the school’s Visual Arts Academy got a behind-the-scenes look at animation processes used for over the past century while participating in the Disney Youth Education Series. The trip showed students Walt Disney’s role in the history of animation and the processes used to create early animated features as well as more current techniques used to bring the vision of modern storytellers to life.

The academy is part of the Tulare-Kings Linked Learning Consortium, which integrates academics with career-based learning and real world work experience to ensure that students are prepared for college, career and life with Pathways Programs.

Hanford West teacher Ellice Blevins, who is the lead teacher of the Visual Arts Academy, said the program helps high school students focus on classes that will help them later in life and to find the value of collaborating. In the academy, students take multiple classes together with different teachers in different subjects that are related by tackling different aspects of an issue.  

“It helps create a sense of community,” Blevins said. “There aren’t any careers where you’re isolated, so it’s important to get that collaboration.”

The trip to Disneyland was an example of the students learning in the field and working together. Students worked together to make their own storyboards and animations after learning ways Disney created early works such as “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”

“It was really interesting,” said Hanford West student Emilie McCormick. “(Disney) was really broken down. He was told not to do a full length animation but did it anyway. It showed us how to dream.”

After making storyboards, students presented the ideas to other groups, using voice and body language to convey the idea in ways Disney used to.

“You get into it,” McCormick said.

Student Lucia Curiel noticed how animators enjoyed the work they were doing.

“They were all enthusiastic about it,” she said. “They were all willing to talk and teach you stuff.”

Jessica Perez was impressed with what went into making some animations and simple tricks that were used to save time.

“It made me appreciate it more,” Perez said.

Hanford West is one of five schools in Kings County to have a Pathways Program, all of which have a different focus. Those include Hanford High (agriscience), Sierra Pacific (business, finance and technology), Lemoore (ag design and fabrication, education as well as engineering) and Corcoran (agriculture mechanics and science).

Faith Faria, who is the Career Education Project coordinator from the Kings County Office of Education, said there are a lot of benefits from the Pathways Program.

“There’s all the benefits of having the students go out to get and be around people in a real job,” Faria said. “It exposes them to different aspects of the career.”

McCormick agreed.

“It’s preparing me for college,” McCormick said. “I think it’s going to be really beneficial to my future.”

Faria said that students who stay in the program have a good chance of landing internships when they graduate. Faria pointed to multiple students in Sierra Pacific’s program landing internships in the office of Congressman David Valadao.

“Students get mentored, they do mock interviews,” Faria said. “By the end of their fourth year, we’re hoping to have them all in internships.”

The visual arts academy is in its second year with students who began the program now being sophomores. There’s also a new group of freshmen who added each year.

“It’s the best thing in teaching I’ve done,” Blevins said. “It’s such a positive thing.”

The reporter can be reached at 583-2431 or Follow him on twitter @jsbutters.

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