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A school transformation you can see and feel

Publicolor, a nonprofit group, is changing schools in New York City one brushstroke at a time.

Publicolor2 The group goes into each school with a mission: Transform the walls with bold colors, engaging students in the decision-making as well as the work -- and in the process, change lives.

The endeavor seems best understood in the words of those who are directly involved.

"We go into marginalized and underserved communities here in the New York City area and we transform public spaces through energetic colors," says Verushka Gray, a site leader for Publicolor.

"And hopefully we also transform the culture in that process. You go from a dark, dreary hallway as opposed to a hallway that's now, say, citrus blast. It's a totally different experience."

Students are not bystanders in the process. They come on Saturdays to help paint, side by side with older teens and corporate volunteers. And from the beginning, students help pick out the paint colors for their school. Publicolor3

"It makes them feel as though what they say matters," says Verone Kennedy, principal of a school that Publicolor transformed. "You can see it on their faces. They wear the confidence.... it's much more than just putting paint on a wall. It's changing lives. It's changing students."

"We're not only transforming places -- we're transforming people, as well," says Ruth Lande Shuman, founder and president of Publicolor.

It starts with paint and proceeds with person-to-person relationships, which are what make this more than just a large-scale renovation project.

Check it out for yourself:

 - Mary Pasciak

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About School Zone

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee joined The Buffalo News in 2007 and currently covers education and suburban schools. She also writes a column for the City & Region section and previously covered government in Erie County and Niagara Falls. Gee graduated from Boston University with degrees in journalism and political science.

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Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes joined The Buffalo News in 2013 and primarily covers the Buffalo Public Schools. She has written about education since 2003 at newspapers in Florida and New York. In 2008, she was a nominated finalist for The Pulitzer Prize. Lankes is an Amherst native and graduate of Sacred Heart Academy and Syracuse University. She started her journalism career writing for the News’ NeXt section.

@TiffanyLankes |

Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan has been a cityside reporter for The Buffalo News since 2000 and currently covers the Buffalo Public Schools beat. She previously covered the Williamsville school district and was a full-time education reporter for five years prior to joining The News. She graduated from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

@BNschoolzone |

Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams began working for The Buffalo News in 1999 and currently covers Buffalo Public Schools. She formerly was a suburban reporter on the Northtowns beat and has been a cityside reporter covering communities since 2004. Williams has a mass communications degree from Towson University.

@DeidreWilliamsB |