Students at New Heights Middle School in East Flatbush have given their school a colorful transformation with the help of Publicolor, a stay-in-school youth development program for underserved communities.

Over the last 12 weeks the lockers, hallways and classrooms have been prepped, primed and vibrantly painted by students and volunteers to create a welcoming and safe environment at the school.

The program’s goal is to get students engaged with their school and learning, and show how they can positively impact their environment.

“While we have this program that beautifies the school and transforms these spaces, we’re also ensuring that we’re transforming the lives of those students in those schools as well,” said Publicolor Next Steps manager Jose Figuera.

Publicolor runs afterschool mentoring programs three days a week for students, starting in the seventh grade through high school and college. Academic support, career advice, and life-skills classes are offered through a design-based curriculum that aims to build character, self-esteem, work habits and goal-setting.

Publicolor was founded by industrial designer and color theorist Ruth Lande Shuman in 1996 who used color, collaboration, design and painting to engage at-risk students from underserved communities and underperforming schools.

The long-term tutoring and investment have resulted in a 95 percent high school graduation rate for Publicolor students, which is above the average of 65 percent for public school students from low-income areas. Since its conception, Publicolor has painted more than 450 schools and community facilities.

For more information on Publicolor and how you can get involved visit


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Anna Bradley-Smith

Anna Bradley-Smith is Brooklyn-based reporter with bylines in NBC, VICE, Slate and others. Follow her on Twitter @annabradsmith.

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