Updated: Aug 9, 2019
El Segundo High School has been named a VAPA Distinguished School for its top-quality arts pathway.
By Elise Ramacciotti, ESHS student, class of 2020
In March, El Segundo High School (ESHS) received the Exemplary Arts Education Program Award from the California Department of Education. The award falls under the 2019 Distinguished Schools Program, which highlights schools with notable pathways or programs in the arts, physical health education, and career technical education. This accolade, awarded by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, makes ESHS one of ten middle and high schools in the State of California distinguished for exemplary VAPA programs.
But what exactly does “VAPA” mean? The acronym VAPA stands for Visual And Performing Arts, which at ESHS comprises a variety of classes. Of the multitude offered, some visual arts courses include Sculpture, Photography, Yearbook, and AP Art History; the performing arts include Band, Choir, Drama, and Strings. These pathways allow for students to learn about and engage in their passions.
So what “distinguishes” El Segundo High School’s VAPA program from similar programs at other schools? The large public schools near to El Segundo, such as Mira Costa High and Redondo Union High, have well-funded VAPA programs that are necessary for their larger student bodies. But in the case of El Segundo High, our school’s VAPA program, founded in 2011, is distinguished by its people. Allison Barnett, a Junior in the Drama pathway, put it this way: “I think that it is a much closer environment [than at other schools], and so the environment itself is what matters. Not just the resources that we have, but the people that we have are what make it good. That is what distinguishes our school.”
So while small size might in some cases count as a weakness, ESHS’s VAPA program turns it into a strength; the intimate settings and passionate instructors allow for students to better hone their talents. ESHS Choirs Director Gianna Summers added, “Because we are able to fine-tune our art, we are able to achieve a lot more than bigger schools can. We are smaller, so we can have more one-on-one work with our students.” Aside from the excellence of the program itself, the VAPA pathways have a unique flair characterized by this individualized arts experience for each student.
The personalized learning offered by the ESHS VAPA pathway is highlighted by the Capstone Project. This project is an opportunity for arts students to demonstrate the culmination of knowledge gathered from their pathway. Mentored by their chosen arts instructor, each student chooses a format in which to express their art—such as a showcase, an internship, or a self-directed art class—and gives a presentation at the end of the year in May. The completion of this project gives students a professional outlet for their art, distinguishing them as capable young artists.
At El Segundo High School, the goal of the Visual and Performing Arts Pathway is “to develop artistic, creative, and innovative students to succeed academically and professionally in their future.” The program exemplifies its credo, which is why it is distinguished from the thousands of other schools in California. Our smaller school provides tight-knit connections between teachers and students, fostering passion for their selected art. It shows that while El Segundo High might be little, its students are deeply enthusiastic about the arts. The VAPA pathway also cultivates students into well-rounded people who are ready to take bold steps into the world. As Drama Director Glenn Sidwell put it, “The arts are everything. They encompass everything that makes a person great: there’s communication, there’s critical thinking, there’s organization, camaraderie, and teamwork. Everything comes together as one in the arts.”
Further information on ESHS’s VAPA distinction can be found online at
Elise Ramacciotti (class of 2020) is a VAPA-pathway student at El Segundo High School. She is president of Journalism Club and performs with ESHS Choirs.
Photos provided by Elise Ramacciotti.
This story appears in the June 2019 issue.