It's taken me a little while to get around to my GOOD Magazine this month. February was the "Food Issue," but the pieces that caught my attention had to do more with architecture and design. Particularly the piece on Publicolor, a non-profit organization whose mission is:
"...to use color, collaboration, design and the painting process to empower students to transform themselves, their schools, and their communities."On the surface, it's a relatively simple thing. Publicolor teaches students from inner city schools how to paint, then helps them transform their own school with bright, vibrant colors. But then again, it's usually the simple things that end up making the biggest impact.
Painting the walls isn't going to cure all the problems in our inner city schools, but I think a program like this is important on a number of levels.
It brightens up the school. Walking into a pleasant, bright place instead of an institutionalized, hospital-style building really makes a surprising difference in your mindset for the day.
It gives students a chance to be part of something. This is huge for students who often are just trying to keep their head down and get through the day. One student, interviewed in the video linked below, said "They make us, like, feel important."
It teaches students responsibility. Older students learn the process first, then they are in charge of teaching the younger students. Putting kids in a mentor role often boosts their confidence and makes them feel that they have the ability and skills necessary to accomplish things in life.
It doesn't end when the paint dries. Publicolor has after-school programs, school-to-work apprentice programs, career and college prep programs, tutoring programs, and more. Students who thrive in the painting project can move on to other, sometimes paid, positions in these Publicolor programs designed to help students in education and preparing for the workforce.
Sometimes all you need is one small change. This type of program gives the kids who want it an opportunity to re-envision themselves. It give the kids who want change an outlet and a vehicle for that change. Of course it won't solve everything, but sometimes just that first step--the belief that things could be different, that you could be different--can be the momentum a child needs to change the direction of his or her life.
I couldn't embed this, unfortunately, but you can click here to see a short film about Publicolor.
The GOOD article isn't up online yet, but here's an article about Publicolor from the New York Times.