PICO RIVERA — Boys wearing straw hats and plaid shirts twirled girls dressed in ribbon-bedecked pink and purple dresses Thursday. Their teacher shouted: “In the circle’. It was the first fall practice of the North Ranchito Folklorico Quetzal dance group. For Nelson Henriquez, 9, one of the rosy- cheeked youngsters in the North Ranchito Elementary after-school dance program, it’s something to look forward to after the last bell of the day rings. In the 15 years of the program, students have performed at Rio Hondo College in Whittier and cities including West Covina, Hacienda Heights, El Monte and Pasadena. “Our school serves a very low- income population, and for a lot of these kids Pico Rivera is all they know,’ said Barrera. “So we take them to perform all over so they can see other communities and get a broader view of the world. “It’s also nice to share our Mexican culture with others, like the Asian population in Hacienda Heights.’ Roxanna Zambrano, 9, a two- year dancer, likes the road trips the best. “We went to a senior center in the mountains one time,’ she said. “It made the seniors happy and we saw things that you don’t see in Pico Rivera.’ The students’ first performance this year will be a Fall Festival on Oct. 28 at the school. They also plan to perform close to Thanksgiving at the Pico Rivera Senior Center and at the Huck Finn Parade in November in Pico Rivera. People interested in having the group perform can call the school at (562) 801-5031. Debbie Pfeiffer Trunnell can be reached at (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3028, or by e- mail at [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week “It’s fun, it wakes me up because I jump around a lot and it makes me think about Mexico,’ said Henriquez, as he wiped sweat off his brow with a red bandanna and stomped his feet. Henriquez is one of 50 third- to fifth- graders in the program, which teaches youngsters folk dances from different regions in Mexico, like the lively Evangelinas dance from the state of Jalisco or the amusing Dance of the Little Old Men from Michoacan. Youngsters don’t have to try out to take part; the free program is for any student who wants to dance and learn more about Mexican traditions, said Elizabeth Barrera, the third- grade teacher who has taught the folklorico dancing for 11 years. “The community is mainly Latino here, so we had a mariachi program at the school and we have continued with the folklorico as a way for youngsters to learn more about and take pride in their culture,’ she said. The youngsters practice two days a week after school, from October to June, to prepare for performances throughout Pico Rivera and other Southern California cities.