Since the Pandemic, Mental Health Awareness has become more and more prevalent, especially amongst our juventud. Adolescence is already stressful enough, add a pandemic on top of that, and anxiety soars to an all-time high. CAST Schools decided to address the issue as opposed to ignoring the problem with the help of San Antonio native and Geekdom Chairman Lorenzo Gomez III and his novel Tafolla Toro: Three Years of Fear, which is a “mental health book about [Gomez’s] middle school years and how [he] struggled with fear and anxiety and the tools [he] had to acquire to overcome that fear.”

“After every chapter, I write a letter from ‘adult me’ to ‘12 year-old me’, and every letter contains at least three clinical mental health principles that I learned in therapy,” states Gomez, (who grew up near Edison and attended Tafolla Middle School) thus, providing the reader with real-life tools and coping mechanisms he has learned along his journey.

The students of Advanced Learning Academy (ALA), in collaboration with Gomez, chose three chapters from Tafolla Toro: Three Years of Fear for an adaptation on the stage, which was performed for all entering ninth graders, who also read the book, of CAST Schools at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center on August 27. After a beautiful performance, students were able to have a Q&A session with the author and cast of the play.

Research shows that if young people, especially people of color, see themselves represented in literature, media, etc… are more likely to succeed. Reading culturally relevant content about a San Antonio native, written by a San Antonio native helped the students identify with some of the issues they themselves face.

“[The book] taught a lot of lessons…I was able to connect to it because I’ve had similar issues, not to the extent of Lorenzo himself. This was someone who lived in San Antonio. He went to a school that I’ve seen around. He had all these issues, and he just bottled them up for all those years, and I realized ‘Hey, this is something I’m doing as well. I probably shouldn’t do this,” reflects ALA senior and cast member, Jeremy Cantu.

Connor Bustos, who is also a senior at ALA and cast member of the play, attended Rhodes Middle school, and could identify with the issues presented in Gomez’s book.

“I was in the same district, the same situation that [Gomez] was. He recommends talking to adults because adults know what they are doing. I think as high school kids, we don’t think that we have help. We think that we’re alone…I agree that you should talk to someone,” states Bustos.

CAST school would love to continue their work with the adaptation of Gomez’s play and possibly perform it throughout San Antonio. You can donate to support this noble cause at their website.