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Woodburn put its cultural heritage on display April 11 at the Moda Center before the final Blazer game of the regular seson

COURTESY - Dancers and musicians from Woodburn School District perform on the Moda Center court during the Trail Blazer pregame show on April 11.Students from Woodburn had an exciting opportunity on April 11, when they performed for the Portland Trail Blazers pregame show preceding the NBA team's final game of the regular season, during which they defeated the Utah Jazz.

More than 80 third- through 12th-graders from Woodburn School District took to the Moda Center court. Students represented the folkloric dance group of Woodburn schools, based at Nellie Muir Elementary School, and the Woodburn High School Mariachi Band, directed by Rosa Floyd and Brian Gingerich.

"I felt like my heart was going to come out of my chest because of the excitement," said sixth-grader Julimar Perez.

"I was really scared, but I knew I could do it," added 12th-grader Sandy Rivera.

For seven minutes, Woodburn students were the center of attention for thousands of people, as the female dancers in their dresses glided across the court and the boys in their hats and boots marked each step firmly, representing the strong, hard-working Mexican male figure, and the mariachi band wowed fans into silence.

Oscar Belanger, assistant principal of Nellie Muir, said that students practiced twice a week for five months leading up to this event.

"It was the perfect way to celebrate their dedication and hard work," he said. "Education is not just books and exams; schools have the obligation to create lifetime experiences for their students and that's exactly what we did. You should have seen the sparkle in their eyes; it was just priceless."

Floyd, who is a kindergarten teacher at Nellie Muir, said she has been doing this cultural work for 17 years.

"This is my way to reconnect our students with their roots and culture," she explained. "It helps to not only create a strong family bond that links generations among family members, but it also generates an opportunity for them to be leaders in their community and schools.

The students are now getting ready to perform at the Chemeketa Community College Woodburn campus' Cinco de Mayo event next week.

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