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I believe the future of Kensington is bright

This marks my third semester teaching art at Taller Puertorriqueño and working with kids ages six to 14. I’m from a small town near Buffalo, New York, and before coming to Kensington, I was advised by other people that it’s a dangerous place.

But since working at Taller as an artist, I’ve learned that Kensington is full of beautiful, creative, resilient, smart, and talented people. The neighborhood is filled with murals, sculptures, artists, music, and culture.

It’s been rewarding work, and I continue to grow and learn every day I am here. There are many things I love about my job, but here are just a few:

I love what I learn as I research people and projects to share with the kids, like the Young Lords. I found out they used to meet at Taller and many of the members were students. Sharing their message to create a better life for Puerto Rican people in America inspired the collages made by students in response.

Taller Puertorriqueño teacher Ava Haitz (center), Education Director Marilyn Rodriguez (left), and Development and Marketing Coordinator Katerina Lydon (right) pose with children from Taller’s after-school programs on February 12, 2019. (Photo by Jillian Bauer-Reese)

I love sharing my passion with young, creative minds, knowing I could have a positive and lasting impact on them. I  get to share my passion for creating art, and the power art has to heal us and impact those around us.

I love being in a creative environment and having the freedom to express ideas and ways of thinking to the youth. We learned that regular meditation can increase our ability to have empathy and decrease impulsiveness and anxiety. I meditate with my students every Tuesday.

I am so proud to have the opportunity to bond with the young people here, their families, and working artists, to understand more about this neighborhood. I aim to inspire this generation of young children to care about the impact they have on themselves and the world.

I believe the future of Kensington is bright, and despite its hardships, the neighborhood is filled with beauty and love. I feel that I’ve become a part of a community here, and I’ve been able to grow as a teacher and an artist. The endless love I receive from my students is something I will always cherish.

What did you think about this story? Send a note to, and we’ll consider publishing it in our Voices section. Or, if you have a question you’d like us to explore in future issues, submit it through Curious Kensington. You can also tell us what you think in person at our neighborhood events.

Editor: Claire Wolters / Story Designer: Jillian Bauer-Reese / Translator: Kristine Aponte