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John Travolta, James Franco and more celebs who played students before they were famous

John Travolta, center, with Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, left, and

John Travolta, center, with Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, left, and Gabe Kaplan in "Welcome Back, Kotter." Credit: ABC

Many students are returning to school this week so it’s a good time for a look at five well-known actors who began their show-biz careers playing students on TV series:

RICHARD CRENNA Even though he was actually 26, Crenna was memorably cast as the awkward, voice-cracking high-school student Walter Denton on Eve Arden’s “Our Miss Brooks” (1952-55). He went on to star in many other TV series (“The Real McCoys,” “Slattery’s People”) as well as films (“The Flamingo Kid,” three “Rambo” movies).

DRAKE Before shooting to musical stardom, the Canadian performer was billed by his given name, Aubrey Graham, on “DeGrassi: The Next Generation” (2001-2009). He played Jimmy Brooks, a basketball star who became paralyzed from the waist down after a classmate shot him.

JAMES FRANCO As the rebellious McKinley High student Daniel Desario on the Judd Apatow-Paul Feig sitcom “Freaks and Geeks” (1999-2000), Franco was part of an ensemble that also helped launch the careers of Seth Rogen, Jason Segel and Busy Philipps.

SARAH JESSICA PARKER Before she played sophisticated Carrie Bradshaw on “Sex and the City,” she was nerdy Patty Greene on “Square Pegs,” the short-lived 1982-83 sitcom that has achieved cult status with many viewers.

JOHN TRAVOLTA He parlayed his “Welcome Back, Kotter” breakout character, cooler-than-cool Vinnie Barbarino, into big-screen stardom, starting with “Carrie,” “Saturday Night Fever” and “Grease” (all made while he was still in the cast of the 1975-79 sitcom).

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