Yorktown Student Still a Hit on Cable


(Saturday, March 24, 2007 6:30 AM EDT)

Lucille Ball will live on forever in reruns. So, too, might Yorktown High School junior Miguel Alvarez.

You may not know Alvarez by his real name, but viewers of Arlington Public Schools programming on cable television might recognize him as “Juan” from “Reunited Families,” a program produced by the school system.

Filmed in 2005, the program tells the story of two El Salvadoran immigrant families, who face the challenge of reuniting after years apart.

Alvarez plays Juan, a boy who has grown up in El Salvador with his aunt and uncle, and who has a hard time adjusting to life in the United States when he joins his parents.

“I was happy about what the movie was about,” Alvarez said in a recent interview. “It shows realistic situations that kids go through.”

Alvarez was born in the District of Columbia, but his parents emigrated from El Salvador and the issue of reunification interested him. To help get into character, he drew on the experiences of some of his family members.

“When I was doing the film, I remember thinking about my cousins who were going through the immigration process,” he said. “It helped me get into the mind-set.”

The program details the angst that Juan goes through as he is forced to leave his aunt and uncle, who raised him when his parents and siblings came to the United States. His anger is coupled with unrealistic expectations that life in the U.S. will be easy.�� At the same time, his parents have difficulty understanding his teenage anger, and fear that he might be drawn into a life of gangs.

For those who have seen the program, they know that Juan loves pupusas (Salvadoran stuffed corn tortillas). His favorites are pupusas loroco, a trait not shared by Alvarez.

“I don't like pupusas loroco, to be honest,” Alvarez said. “Any other kind, I like. My favorite are pupusas revueltas.”

Parts of the program were filmed in San Miguel, El Salvador, which is in the process of becoming a formal Sister City with Arlington. But all of Alvarez's scenes were filmed in a single day at the Arlington Career Center.

Playing Juan was Alvarez's first go at acting, so seeing the finished product was a new experience.

“It was a ‘whoa!' kind of thing,” he said. “I'd never seen myself speak Spanish or act before.”

Alvarez hasn't acted since “Reunited Families,” keeping busy in Latino Club, playing soccer and practicing tae kwon do. But, to this day, people still see him on television and talk to him about it.

“Everybody catches me, but I've only seen myself three times,” he said. “The last time was on a snow day, when I was looking for a two-hour delay!”

“Reuniting Families” is broadcast on Arlington Public Schools' cable channels (70, 72 and 73), and the DVD can be purchased at www.arlington.k12.va.us/instruct/ITS/reunited.htm.

Yorktown High School student Miguel Alvarez can be seen frequently on the "Reunited Families" program on cable television.
(Photo by Kristen Armstrong)

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