Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Helping Schools Make a Splash By MELANIE GRAYCE WEST

[NYDONOR]Deven Parekh
Through the nonprofit Publicolor, Deven Parekh is helping brighten up New York City schools with a fresh coat of paint and, in turn, giving some students a fresh start in school.
Mr. Parekh, 41 years old, is a managing director of New York-based Insight Venture Partners, a private-equity and venture-capital firm. He serves as board chairman of Publicolor and most recently gave a gift of $35,000 in honor of the organization's 15th anniversary.
 Publicolor goes into city schools and provides a fresh coat of colorful paint to liven up drab interiors. With the help of the nonprofit's volunteers and staff members, students participate in the redesign process and do the painting. Through the Publicolor program, students develop excitement, pride and sense of ownership in their surroundings that, in turn, motivate them to be better students, Mr. Parekh says.
"The renovation and the painting of the school has significant impact on absenteeism because people feel proud of their school," he says. "I view the painting as step one to get the kids passionate about their school. Then once you do that, there's a lot you can do with them."
After the painting project ends, the program offers ongoing support to the participants through club activities, including mentoring, life-skills workshops, career training and reading and writing immersion. Those students go on to other schools and help train other student painters.
As students get older, they participate in college preparatory classes, SAT preparation and college tours. Last year, all of the graduating Publicolor students went on to college and the organization provided some gap scholarships to students. About two-thirds of all Publicolor college students use their professional painting skills to earn extra money.
"We're really able to change the course and trajectory of kids' lives," says Mr. Parekh.
Mr. Parekh has been involved with the program for about five years, first learning about the organization at an Aspen Institute breakfast where he was, by chance, seated next to Publicolor's founder and president, Ruth Lande Shuman.
Now, Mr. Parekh's son is involved. His 11-year-old had a birthday painting party in January where the boy's friends painted with students and Publicolor staff. In lieu of giving birthday gifts, guests were asked to donate to the organization. Mr. Parekh regularly volunteers to paint on weekends and jokes that you don't have to be a skilled painter to participate because Publicolor has a touch-up crew.
"It ended up working great because kids like to paint," says Mr. Parekh. "So it was fun, but they also got to see that they're doing something more than just getting gifts."

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Zuckerberg tops tech's generous donors list

Donation: $100 million to Newark schools
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg made a splash in September with a company blog post titled "Startup: Education" -- plus an appearance on Oprah.
In the post, Zuckerberg waxed poetic about the problems in school systems nationwide -- and especially that of one troubled New Jersey city. "Newark has unfortunately become a symbol of public education's failure -- of a status quo that accepts schools that don't succeed," Zuck wrote.
Zuckerberg said he would donate Facebook stock valued at $100 million to Newark's public schools. As part of the deal, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie handed some control of the state-run school system to Newark Mayor Cory Booker.
Zuckerberg, who dropped out of Harvard in 2002 to get Facebook off the ground, wrote that he looked forward to giving Newark's 40,000 students the same educational opportunities he had received.