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Exciting colors transcend dreary schools

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A program that helps young people transcend dreary surroundings that often plague poor or inner-city youth will work on the interiors of three Bronx schools this fall, adding color to the schoolhouse and hopefully enhancing the learning experience in the process.

Publicolor, which was founded in 1996, will make sure the halls at Phillip Sousa Middle School at 3750 Baychester Avenue, Bronx Aerospace Academy at 800 E. Gun Hill Road, and P.S. 69 at 560 Theriot Avenue are full of color, turning what can sometimes be drab, public spaces into even more vibrant learning environments.

The non-profit Publicolor is teaming up with school officials to have students work in teams to lay out a color scheme for their school that enhances the appeal of the learning environment. The program not only teaches good work habits which can be made applicable to many different jobs, but breaks down the cycle of poverty by teaching the transferable skill of commercial painting.

“Publicolor’s mission comes from a firm belief that the absence of color is not benign,” said industrial designer Ruth Lande Shuman, who founded and runs Publicolor. “Teachers and students report feeling safer in a Publicolor school. So teachers can finally teach and students learn without being frozen by fear.”

Since its inception, the Publicolor program has worked in 103 school campuses, with about one-quarter of those in the Bronx. They also painted the pediatric ward at North Central Bronx Hospital and a homeless shelter in the Bronx, as well as low-income housing in partnership with Phipps Community Development. Publicolor’s original commitment to schools remains firm.

The students, who are participating in paint club, come to enjoy the experience by and large, according to Shuman. When teachers see the students working together to enhance the environment of the school, this often leads them to believe more in the students.

“83% of teachers surveyed in the Bronx report higher expectations from students after they participate in Publicolor’s school-wide effort,” Shuman said. “Many of the students are otherwise disengaged and at risk of dropping out. We work with at-risk populations.”

Shuman stated that there is a real connection between environment and behavior, and that a well-chosen color-scheme can make learning easier in schools.

“We paint dignity and respect into buildings used by people who experience daily the indignities of poverty,” Shuman said.

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