His students took to the stage Tuesday to perform their original play, “No Turning Back,” which they wrote and produced. Even the smallest details of the production were handled by the drama students – right down to escorting teachers and students to their seats. In the play, the fictional student Roger does not take seriously state testing, then finds out he can’t go out for the school football team because his test scores were too low. Advanced students in Villegas’ 225-student drama program penned the play in a few weeks. • Photo Gallery: No Turning Back • Video: No Turning BackMONTEBELLO – When it comes to performances, La Merced Intermediate School drama teacher David Villegas takes a strict hands-off approach. But it’s not because he doesn’t care; rather, Villegas is supremely confident his students can put together a stage production all on their own. “I don’t have to lift a finger. They’re in charge of everything – from lights to sound to props,” he said. “They run their own show.” More than three decades after it was launched by former teacher John Montgomery, the intermediate school’s drama program is still going strong. Villegas teaches six full-time classes. His advanced drama class puts on three major student-written productions each year. By the time the drama students enter their senior year, they can write plays, act and direct their own productions, Villegas said. “I think it’s a pretty cool class. I’ve learned a lot, especially in writing,” said eighth-grader Patrick Orozco, 14. “When I’m writing an essay for another class, I think that I’m putting my thoughts down just like I would do in drama.” Advanced students also help recruit sixth-graders to the program and help train them. “I find it funny that in years past, some districts have been cutting their drama programs, but we’re using ours to enhance our test scores,” Villegas said. “Students don’t have to read or write in this class. They want to read and write in this class.” The program has helped eighth-grader Robert Estrada, 13, figure out what he’d like to do when he gets older. “Acting – I’ve been wanting to do that all my life,” Estrada said. “I love to write. Making up small plays and making people laugh has been the best part of this program for me so far.” [email protected] (562) 698-0955 Ext. 3051160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!