Twenty students from the West Valley Special Education Center will perform the holiday favorite "The Nutcracker Suite," for their peers from two local public schools this week.
Students from Encino Elementary School and Valley Alternative Magnet School will travel to West Valley on Thursday and Friday to view the performances.
The performing students all suffer from mental retardation or severe emotional disabilities, making the production all the more impressive, said West Valley Principal Glynn Thompson.
"These students love to perform," Thompson said. "These are students who, on a regular campus, might be in gangs or in trouble. Here, they are the stars of the school."
With 220 students, West Valley is one of 18 schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District designed for children with emotional and physical disabilities. The school instructs students from 3 to 12 years of age. The "Nutcracker" performers are all between 9 and 12.
West Valley teachers Bob Stoy and Betsy Bernardi worked with the students for the last six weeks in preparation for the performances.
"People often give to the disabled." Thompson said. "We want to show that these disabled kids are capable of giving something back."
In addition to the pride they feel at performing in public, the West Valley students appreciate the opportunity to interact with other kids.
"It's really important for them to have a chance to be with their non-disabled peers," Thompson said. "And it's good for the other kids as well to be exposed to people with these types of disabilities."