SOUTH LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Under a bridge in South L.A., in a reclaimed mortuary, is a small charter school that’s coming alive with the sound of music.

The facade is rather dreary.

But step inside and you’ll find giraffes and lions and a bevy of costumed kids belting out songs from Disney’s classic “The Lion King.”

The Downtown Value School is a public K-8 charter school that welcomes low-income, urban students to learn from energetic teachers and embrace five core values centered around learning and community.

You can see that enthusiasm in Shayna Markwongnark, who’s leading her 21 first-graders in putting on a “Lion King” musical play. She puts on shows and programs because she sees the way the arts engage students and makes them excited to be in school.

“I like it because I get to be an actor,” said student Arianna Hernandez, who’s playing the part of Scar.

Most of these first-graders come from poverty, they’ve witnessed crimes and some have even been homeless. Fortunately, their teacher is making sure their home life doesn’t affect their happiness and education.

“‘The Lion King’ play hasn’t just been about singing and dancing, we’ve actually covered Common Core curriculum: language, spacing, music, rhythm,” Markwongnark said. “We really did cover a wide range of the topics that are needed for them to really grasp the art concepts.”

Markwongnark made the musical possible by spearheading a fundraising effort. With the help of the children’s parents, they raised the money needed for the production.

“I really wanted them more than anything to be brave and believe in themselves and know that regardless of instabilities they may have, whatever homes they come from, whatever resources they’re lacking, I wanted them to know that through the arts and through education, they can maximize their potential,” the teacher said.

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