Hundreds paint MLK’s lasting memory on schoolhouse walls

A large team of volunteers made the repainting of the school building on Martin Luther King Jr. Day a success.
Photo courtesy of NBCUniversal

A group of volunteers took a day out for service to spruce up a school building and fill it with inspirational images.

Volunteers from City Year New York, an organization that provides AmeriCorps mentors and tutoring to students in underserved elementary and middle schools, painted a myriad of murals depicting the borough at its best on a building shared by two middle-schools in Soundview.

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy, approximately 600 volunteers produced murals on Monday, January 21 in what was surely a welcomed surprise for students at J.H.S. 123 and M.S. 337 when they returned after the MLK holiday.

“Part of the reason we serve on Martin Luther King Jr. Day is that King was a proponent of service,” said Laura Hamm, City Year New York vice president and executive director. “We honor (King) by having a ‘day-on’ instead of a ‘day-off,’ so we encourage community members and our partners to come and serve with us during an amazing day.”

Taking part in the painting of the Soundview school building were professional WNBA basketball player Swin Cash and Avril Haines, first woman deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency, said a City Year NY spokeswoman.

To compliment J.H.S. 123, which has a STEM theme, murals of great mathematicians and those depicting science-related endeavors, such as power-grids, were painted, said Hamm, who supervised the volunteers at the Morrison Avenue school.

At M.S. 337, which has a social justice curriculum, the art celebrated celebrity Bronxites, she said, who are from Soundview and neighboring communities.

These included murals featuring images of quotations from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and pop star Jennifer Lopez, said Hamm.

Volunteers from all walks of life came together to paint murals at the Soundview school building shared by J.H.S. 123 and M.S. 337 on Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, January 21.
Photo courtesy of NBCUniversal

There were also murals painted of President Obama, Martin Luther King Jr., pioneering African-American entrepreneur Madame C.J. Walker and New York Yankee legend Derek Jeter.

In addition to these murals, facts and well-known figures about the borough were placed in many of the murals, said Hamm.

These included depictions and notable information about the borough, including images of Pelham Bay Park, noting it is three times the size of Central Park; that the borough was home to writer Edgar Allan Poe; that High Bridge is the oldest standing bridge in New York City; that George Washington led troops here during the Revolutionary War; that Bronx residents Bob Kane and Bill Finger created Batman; that the Haagan-Dazs ice-cream company was founded here in 1961 and that the famed Pregones Theater is known for producing plays by Latin-American playwrights.

“Our kids need inspiration,” said M.S. 337 principal Andrea Cyprus in a statement. “They need passion. And that is what is happening in this school today.”

Hamm said that many of the volunteers were talking about how they were bringing life and excitement into the schools for the students.

City Year NY has programming with a goal of helping decrease drop out rates at P.S. 75, P.S. 48, P.S. 154, Bronx Grant Avenue Elementary, Bronx Early College Academy, J.H.S. 123 and C.I.S. 303.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at procchio@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.
Volunteers paint a mural at the Morrison Avenue school building during a day of service for Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, January 21.
Photo courtesy of NBCUniversal

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