More than 400 students and community members came together Monday to commemorate Martin Luther King Day by painting Eastern High School in Southeast D.C.
More than 150 GW students – the largest group at the event – participated with students from Georgetown and Howard universities and volunteers from D.C. CARES and the D.C. Jewish Community Center, among others.
Richard Feldman, Director of D.C. JCC Community Service Department, said he chose the site for the project, basing his decision on need and the ability to have a large effect in a short time period.
“With energy conservation, freshly painted hallways will make the school much brighter,” Feldman said. “D.C. does not have the budget to paint its schools.”
Last year, the MLK Day project painted the first two floors of Eastern High School with funds from the D.C. government. Feldman said that D.C. did not budget for the project this year and the project worked from funds donated by the National Service Coalition.
The larger than expected group took about five hours to paint the third and fourth floors of the building.
National Service Coalition members Ronda Taylor and Sivhan Dugan said that they had 150 more people than they expected participate in painting two floors of Eastern High School.
“We are thrilled with the turnout,” Taylor said.
Senior Kendra Dean said she was excited to participate in the project.
“It feels great to give back,” she said. “Every little bit counts.”
Sophomore Patrice McMillan, a Pennsylvania House community facilitator, brought seven of her residents to paint.
“I called my residents this morning to make sure they were awake,” she said. “I knew that Martin Luther King Day was coming and that community service was an important part of that . when I got the e-mail about this event, I knew I had found my calling.”
Twenty students came from GW Hillel, sophomore Whitney Taxman said.
“I think having things neater and nicer will help with a nicer start to the year,” Taxman said.
The Student Association funded supplies and drinks for the GW volunteers.
Junior Katie Riffy, a seventh floor Thurston CF, said she was really excited about this project and made breakfast for her residents before they participated.
“Freshmen students kind of need an incentive to come out, so feeding them helps,” Riffy said. “Today is not a day off. iIt is a day on.”
Artists Rachel Dickerson and Roy Ricci painted two D.C.-oriented murals.
Originally from Holland, Ricci is a junior at Gallaudet University.
“Richard gave me a list of ideas of what to paint for the mural, and I think the Capitol is a very beautiful building,” said Ricci through a sign-language interpreter. “I wanted to create something strong.”
Taylor helped found the MLK day service projects for the National Service Coalition in 1996 where the projects began by cleaning up a small housing project in Southeast D.C. The following year, they began to give out grants to fund community service projects for the holiday and now give out half a million dollars every year to fund service projects for MLK day.