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November 26, 2010 > Middle school dares to dream

Middle school dares to dream

Story and photos by Miriam G. Mazliach

Rancho Milpitas Middle School's 725 students were in for a special treat as they celebrated the start of "Dare to Dream" week November 15-19.

The kick-off event, marked by assemblies held separately for the 7th and 8th graders, featured a "local guy who made good." Growing up in nearby East San Jose, Deon H. Hayman had headed off to Los Angeles to achieve his dream of success in the movie business. He had come to speak with the students and screen one of his short films, targeted to the middle school-age audience.

His invitation came about when Principal Leticia Villa-Gascon asked Assistant Principal Anthony Frascone, about the kind of anti-bullying assembly being planned for this year and its focus. "After reflecting on my first two years in this role," said Frascone, "I was compelled to go back to the principal and say, I want to bring in an assembly, but not your average cookie cutter, one size fits all approach and I also want it to be positive."

While brainstorming ideas, Principal Villa-Gascon remembered her childhood friend who had made a movie about middle school and how he had won some awards. Frascone added, "The school counselor, Jennifer Hutchison, who really has her finger on the pulse of our school, was brought into the conversation, and then someone said, "Dare to Dream" week. Everything else fell into place from there," said Frascone.

At the assembly, Hayman, who is now a writer, director and producer in Los Angeles, spoke to the students about his educational background and career, especially about how he had come to live out his dream.

A 1999 graduate of UCLA, Hayman also completed screenwriting and directing programs, winning First Place in L.A. City College's Student Film Showcase for his first short film, "Hey Joe." He has worked on dozens of music videos, television shows and films as well as spending five years with Walt Disney Imagineering, working with a team of writers. Hayman is a successful independent filmmaker, recently selected for the 2010 Cannes Independent Film Festival.

"Filmmaking is a creative process," says Hayman. "It felt to me like the most natural thing to do, and career to have."

At the assembly for the Rancho Milpitas students, he screened his multi-award winning short film, "The Don of Virgil Jr. High." This comedic look at middle-school angst - with its themes of cool versus nerdy kids and boy meets girl, offered much for the students to identify with.

After viewing, Hayman fielded questions from the students and mentioned that he is negotiating appropriate financing, to turn the short film into a feature length one. "Don't be discouraged; go for your dreams," says Hayman. "I've always dreamt about filmmaking and after high school I moved to L.A. to make it happen."

Frascone who had attended Rancho Milpitas in his youth, told the students, "We want you to focus on looking internally and thinking about what you want your future to look like, to find out what talents you have inside. This week your teachers are going to encourage you to pursue your dreams."

"We're excited to promote positive attitudes in students," added Principal Villa-Gascon. "We want to motivate students to have success and we want you to dream big."

After the assembly, Frascone announced an extra competition. The school is launching a contest that will encourage the Rancho students to use their imagination to create a poem, a short story, a public service announcement, artwork, or an interpretive dance, etc., highlighting the importance of following or expressing one's dreams. A special prize will be given to the first place winner and the top three entries will be showcased on the morning announcements to the entire school.

"Rancho Milpitas Middle School has been designated as one of the 'national schools to watch' by the National Forum, and was selected due to its replicable practices/curriculum that really targets what it's like to be in middle school," according to Jennifer Hutchison, the school's counselor. "We're the little school that could. A lot of great things are going on here."

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