Confratellanza italo-canadese congratulates Jim Crescenzo

On Tuesday April 4th 2017, Confratellanza Italo-Canadese was proud to celebrate the cheque presentation to Jim Crescenzo.
Jim Crescenzo was eight years old when his dad died of cancer, and his older siblings and widowed mom went to work. When Crescenzo turned 14, he too got his first job to pitch in and help the family. I remember sitting around the table at night, at the end of each month, with my brother, and my sister and mom. Everyone would put their pay cheques on the table, and we’d look at it and say: How can we help? How can we get through this month? That family image inspired Crescenzo and would prove formative to his life’s work: mentoring troubled teens through film, theatre and television, and the lessons he brings to that work were gleaned around the kitchen table. Crescenzo’s mother was an Italian immigrant. She worked hard, raised her children on her own and never remarried after the death of her husband. At a very young age, I was taught by my mom that the secret to success is to aim high, and you work your ass off to go get it, and the other thing is to never give up hope. In 1981, Crescenzo got a job teaching drama at Templeton Secondary, the school he attended in his youth. It was my goal to go back and see if I could help kids who were marginalized and at risk, he says. The most important thing was to teach them life skills – to build confidence and self esteem in them, as well as having the opportunity if they wanted to explore a possible career in television, film and theatre, they would be ready to by the time they graduated. But the drama program was starved of resources – there were no real facilities, and students sat on the floor. In 1997, Crescenzo and two parents – James Prier and Shelley Mason – whose son had been through his program, put together a budget and a plan to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars from affluent donors. The Vancouver school board pitched in with bricks and mortar, building better facilities, and Crescenzo fundraised for state-of-the-art equipment – cameras, editing suites, microphones – and the film and television program was born. Crescenzo estimates almost half of Templeton’s student population is involved in the program, which also attracts students from other areas. But Crescenzo didn’t stop there. Determined to catch the kids falling through the cracks, he went on to form a summer film program, in partnership with Pacific Cinematheque and a club to help troubled male teens. He now has a small army of supporters who help with the various programs, either through volunteering or generously donating, including Francesco Aquilini, owner of the Vancouver Canucks, and Frank Giustra, well-known philanthropist and founder of Lions Gate Entertainment.

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