PHARR – The PSJA school district officially dedicated the newly named Gilberto Zepeda Jr. Performing Arts Center at PSJA North Early College High School with the cast of the Lion King Jr. on hand.
The namesake of the building snipped the ribbon at the ceremony. Zepeda has been with the district since 1979, where he started the annual children's show. He continued at PSJA until 1990 when he took over the helm of the PSJA North High School Department until his retirement in 2016.
A semiretirement because Zepeda now oversees all the drama teachers in the school district as well the middle school theatre department.
Zepeda said that students these days are more prepared to excel in the fine arts.
“They know more and they're more anxious,” he said. “PSJA is more into college preparation and now a lot of the students are coming here ready to go to college.”
He admits students are more advanced than before and it opens opportunities for students to take their acting careers into college.
There has been countless opportunities for students to earn scholarships. Now the students that graduate from PSJA drama department as a district get sought out by major universities all over the country.
Knowing that students receive an education by acting is something that makes Zepeda proud.
“It's wonderful,” he said. “I very proud of what we have done here all these years.”
While Zepeda's success as an educator at PSJA is well known, his career in state policy is highly herald as well. In 1994 Texas Governor Ann Richard appointed Zepeda to serve on the Texas Commission of the Arts. He also served as a board member of the Texas Educational Theatre Association.
One policy Zepeda helped enact was requiring all applications for state funded grants in the arts must have an educational component.
Zepeda is also a winner of the 2001 Governor's Texas medal of the Arts alongside Willie Nelson and Tommy Lee Jones.
In a statement by the district, The PSJA board of trustees surprised Zepeda with the unanimous decision of naming the building where thousands of PSJA students' passion for the arts were molded by his legacy.