Last year, students and teachers called upon Elk Grove Unified School District officials to hire a director to help lead their visual and performing arts programs. Many of them told the school board about how the arts enriched their lives at school.
Sheldon High School student Mike Infante spoke from his wheelchair to the Elk Grove school board on July 24, 2018. He said that he learned how to become a filmmaker at his school.
“I’ve had the mindset and goal to stand up – not stand up literally – but to be there to show people that people with disabilities can do what they want to do,” Infante said.
The Elk Grove school board approved the position of visual and performing arts director last year, and Sofia Fojas took on that role this summer.
“The arts are so much, they really are the glue,” she about the arts. “It’s the element that makes us human beings.”
Fojas said that an arts education can expand a student’s self-expression, and better connect him or her to a school and a community.
“The arts can be inserted everywhere,” she said. “I’m very excited about the possibilities.”
Fojas previously worked as the supervisor of Cultural Equity and Social Justice in the Arts for the San Francisco Unified School District.
She explained that her former role was to help that district focus on students who had little access to arts programs.
“When you look at arts education across the United States we see students of color having a reduced access to the arts because of various obstacles,” she said.
During her the first week of her new job in Elk Grove, Fojas said that she learned about the arts programs offered at schools across the school district.
“I’m looking at what the arts education (program) looks like and how I can bridge the gaps for students who may not have access,” she told the Citizen.
Fojas has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology with a minor in music from the University of Hawaii, and a master’s degree in educational leadership from California State University, East Bay.
This summer, she returned to the Central Valley where she earlier played violin in the Stockton Symphony for 20 years. She became interested in becoming a music teacher after a friend asked her if she could teach an orchestra class.
Fojas started as a music director at San Jose’s Hoover Middle School 20 years ago before she went on to teach string, orchestra, and mariachi music at schools across the San Jose Unified School District.
“I found it to be the most enriching and rewarding profession to be in public education,” she said about being an educator. “Not one day is the same – I got to ignite students around music…I really felt like it was a full life and I’ve never regretted it. It really took me to a lot of places.”