Students promenaded down the runway to strut their stuff before friends and family during day and evening performances at the annual English High School Talent and Fashion Show April 13. The program included students modeling their choices of clothes, often personalized with decorations, along with dancers, singers, rappers and poets.
The popular event continued a long tradition. For the past 20 years, teacher Patricia Thaxton has guided two generations of students through each production.
“There’s a lot of really good talent and enthusiasm this year. The kids began preparing for the show in September,” Thaxton said during a dress rehearsal the day before the production.
The popular teacher of home economics, media and arts and fashion and home design demonstrated her own commitment, coming in to help fine-tune the event despite fighting a nasty cold. “I’ve done this show consistently through both good and tough times, and I’m not going to let something like a cold keep me down,” she said.
It was obvious her students appreciated their teacher’s dedication.
“I love Pat. She’s like a second mom,” said senior Deanna Rowe, the assistant director of the show and an aspiring fashion designer. “She helped me get all my college stuff in and helped me with my sewing skills. I feel like I can tell her anything.”
Rowe, who is planning to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan in the fall, said she has been working on the production crew for the past three years.
“It’s a good thing to put on my résumé, but it can be very stressful. I’m in control of the models and decide the order they come out. I also have a couple pieces of my work in the show. I check in with Pat, but she gives me a lot of leeway.”
“Ms. Thaxton has always been there for me,” concurred senior Erik Dukes. “She understands people and the problems of the production. The most important thing is that she shows us that respect is a two-way street.”
Dukes’ responsibilities included both operating the curtain and modeling. “I enjoy being a model, it’s my third time on the stage, but I like working back stage the best. It’s an important job. I think it will help me out with my career, learning how to do your work when the spotlight is on you.”
Dukes has been accepted to Clark Atlanta University and said he wants to major in business management.
Senior Marc Valmir, a four-year veteran of the event, said being stage manager “is a lot work, but I think the skills I’ve learned are going to serve me well in the real world. I’ve gotten a lot of compliments and now people ask me if I want to help at other events.”
This fall Valmir plans to go to Bunker Hill Community College and then transfer to Fitchburg or Salem State College to study theater arts.
For senior Tasha Lamandier, a member of the dance group Envy, the production gives her a chance to show off her skills. “The first time on stage I was pretty scared, but I’ve been in the show three years and now I’m used to it,” she said, adding, “Dancing relieves my problems and helps take my mind off what I’m going through in life.”
Lamandier said she’s looking at a number of four-year colleges and wants to be a social worker.
Thaxton noted that when she first started putting on shows like this at Curley Middle School 33 years ago, all she had were two record players and one spotlight with some colored paper in front.
“This year we used computer technology to design the stage. Kids are much more sophisticated today, but [they] have a whole lot of other things going on in their lives. Some are homeless, others have to act as translators for their families, and all of them have friends or know a classmate lost to
“We have to support them. They need more attention and encouragement. I’m not afraid to discipline them when they need it, but I also try to compliment them when they do the right thing.
“It can be exhausting to open up and give, but if we want our students to work hard and do their best, we have to stay with it and push them. Most importantly, they always know I’m going to tell them the truth,” she said.
Thaxton praised the entire cast and crew, saying, “It’s a nice, well-mannered and close group of about 125 kids. There’s a real sense of family. They’re a joy to work with.”
She singled out many, especially the student executive committee. “Deanna came to me in her sophomore year, and is the first student I’ve had that was so passionate about designing. In addition to being very talented, she’s developed great leadership skills…and the kids praise her for her work. She’s second in command.
“Estella Stephens is another invaluable helper. She’s all over the place, working with the stage crew,” she said.
“A lot of kids begin here very shy, like Glory Rodriguez, now a junior. Last year she was so quiet working on the stage crew. This year she’s singing beautifully in the show. Up to now, no one knew she sang. It’s wonderful to see her real self coming out.”
Thaxton, who was inducted into English High School’s Hall of Fame this year, went on to praise her fellow staffers.
“Georgette Travis, the principal’s administrative assistant, has been with the show for 15 years. She sells tickets, does errands, anything we need to be done.
“And I have to thank first Sgt. Alford from the ROTC program. Each year he puts off his annual fishing trip to help out with the show. It’s because of people like these we sell out every year,” she said.