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A Kensington native reconnects with the roots of his artistic beginnings at Cramp Elementary School

As a student, Kensington native José Avilés discovered that he liked music and acting when Ms. Creighton, his 4th grade teacher at Cramp Elementary School, tapped him to be a part of a classroom theatrical presentation. 

"The theater bug bit me," José enthusiastically recounted as the memory of that formidable experience came flooding back to his consciousness as he soaked in the fact that he was back in his old elementary school after so many years.

Today, José returned to his old alma mater as one of 40 guest speakers at the school's Career Day. These accomplished professionals, from fields as varied as medicine to sales to the arts, spoke to the students about their respective career journeys and vocational craft. 

Many dynamic presenters from the performing arts realm also got the students up on the feet to engage them with theatrical acting games or dance movement exercises. 

The Philadelphia Education Fund's ArtsRising initiative recruited a variety of creative arts professionals like José to assist the school in making the Career Day a robust and meaningful one for the students. 

ArtsRising also leveraged our presence in the community to call upon those in other fields to participate including our fellow Ed Fund program - Math & Science Coalition - who drew from their network of STEM professionals to truly offer a well-rounded experience for the students.

It was a chance meeting at a Drexel event several weeks ago where ArtsRising discovered José Avilés' roots in Kensington and at Cramp. He was immediately invited to participate in the Career Day event.

José can now easily trace his evolution from theatrically precocious youth at Cramp to accomplished professional actor/educator, who has worked with the Philadelphia theatre scene for over 20 years with such luminary venues as Walnut St. Theatre and Wilma Theatre. He also continues to lead his own company, Filadelfia Latino Theatre Ensemble. 

Currently, he is the new Director of Education at Taller Puertorriqueño with a mission to bring more arts education to Latino youth in North Philadelphia and transform their lives just as his life was by the arts. 

Education is a very important part of his calling as he was accompanied at the Cramp event by one of his artistic protégés, Gabriela Sanchez, who also recounted on how Jose had mentored her when she was a teenager at Taller's summer program years ago.

The Cramp Elementary School Career Day truly was a special event that crystallized the importance of caring adults and how their encouragement can impact the life of a young person, irrevocably for the better.

Pictured: (l-r) Angela Jubinville of Centro Nueva Creacion talks to Gabriela Sanchez and José Avilés, both of Taller Puertorriqueno.