When it comes to arts education, children in public schools across the country still are not exposed to enough creative opportunities, according to longtime activist, actress and Urban Arts Partnership co-founder Rosie Perez.
For the past 25 years, Perez has been working alongside Urban Art's teachers and board members to create more arts education opportunities for students in low-income communities in New York City and Los Angeles. "I've always said what separates a privileged child from an underprivileged child is opportunity," Perez said in an interview with NBC Latino.
According to UAP's website, its mission is to advance the intellectual, social and artistic development of under served public school students through arts-integrated education programs.
UAP has a 100 percent high school graduation rate. According to a spokesperson for the organization, the partnership helps nearly 15,000 students each year.
Perez said it is because of community organizations and the love of her aunt Ana Domingo Otero and Sister Margaret Frances that she became a success.
"The arts opened me up, it really did. I was a ward of the state... so I grew up in Bushwick, and they were Title 1 schools, and we did not have a lot," said Perez. "But we had a lot more art programs than there are today, sadly to say."
And Perez isn't just working behind the scenes for students, you can also find her mentoring students and leading arts courses at UAP's headquarters in New York. One of her mentees is theatre student Devin Mojica, a sophomore at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. Mojica is also a recipient of UAP's prestigious Nagler scholarship, which is a full ride scholarship that is awarded to one UAP student every year.
"To be able to find a place where I could develop my craft, and then apply that afterwards, you know, that's helped me get into school, it's helped me get internships," Mojica said.
Specializing in coding, NYU student and Nagler scholarship recipient Abel Orellano has also worked closely with Perez. Orellano said that receiving the Nagler scholarship has been the most impactful moment of his life thus far. He credited getting into college and honing his coding skills to UAP.
"If it weren't for Urban Arts, i'm not even sure where I'd be right now," Orellano said. "I think they were crucial to my acceptance into college."
This year the organization is celebrating 25 years. Perez believes there's a lot of hope for the future of the organization, which includes eventually expanding to public schools nationwide.
UAP was to host its 25th anniversary benefit dinner in New York on Wednesday. For more information on the event visit: https://donate.urbanarts.org/events/-/e84451