PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- It's Hispanic Heritage Month and CBS3 took a look at something special happening in the city's Fairhill section. A nonprofit's youth artist program is combining creativity and culture for teenagers.
Behind a sewing machine, Ashleen Castillo weaves her story. The fashion designer moved from Puerto Rico to Philadelphia in 2018. She now teaches art and fashion at Taller Puertorriqueño, a nonprofit community organization.
"So being able to be aware of your culture, learn from it, it empowers them," Castillo said.
In this class for teens, the students start with vision boards full of color, pictures, and textures that inspire them.
"I'm Puerto Rican and I love the art that the Puerto Rican culture has," Jose Ramos, who is in 11th grade, said. "And I love the different ways that you can express it."
Eventually, they will be designing fashions of their own.
"Sewing is so empowering for people, for elders, for kids," Castillo said. "It's that sense of I can make something."
Instructor Kamille Payamps is an artist as well with Puerto Rican and Dominican roots that inspire her fashion and her lessons.
"How do you tell the world that I'm proud to be Puerto Rican and this is how," Payamps said. "The kids learn how to do that here."
The organization's home is on North 5th Street, an area that saw a wave of Puerto Rican migration, including artists and designers. The island's colonial history gives those artists a unique perspective, says executive director Nasheli Juliana Ortiz-González.
"I think the arts in Puerto Rican culture are a form of resistance. A form of holding to our history," Ortiz-González said.
The artwork and clothing made at the nonprofit are not just beautiful, but a window into potential careers for the teens. Castillo said being here and teaching has made her feel even more connected to her roots and culture.
"I am a part of the Latino community," Castillo said. "I am part of something big that keeps this country alive."
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