On a quiet summer afternoon, Dylan Parvis, 13, came across the “Before I Die ...” wall while walking with three of his friends down Upper Union Street.
Just before crossing the street toward McDonald’s, the Niskayuna middle school students all stopped at the wall, picked up a fluorescent piece of chalk and wrote on the wall something they want to do before they die.
“I wrote, ‘Meet LeBron James,’ ” Parvis said. “He is one of my favorite basketball players.”
The “Before I Die ...” wall is an international project that started in New Orleans on an abandoned house. Candy Chang thought up the idea for the wall after someone close to her died. Almost overnight the project became a sensation. The “Before I Die ...” walls are now all over the world.
Visitors at the walls are asked to fill in the blank, “Before I die I want to...” The wall is meant to inspire people to follow their dreams and give people a place to share their goals, hopes and aspirations.
When Union College student Shilpa Darivemula heard about the project she wanted to bring it to Schenectady.
“I thought it was a wonderful idea,” she said. “And I thought — why not Schenectady?”
The wall made its debut on Jay Street a few weeks ago and has gained lots of color and popularity ever since. The wall recently moved to the Upper Union Street location and will continue to move all around Schenectady throughout the summer. The last stop for the wall will be on the Union College campus.
While Parvis and his friends were at the wall there were lots of smiles and laughs as they each shared what they wrote aloud.
Donnovan Tucker, 13, wrote, “Become a millionaire.”
Maximos Menagias, 13, who said he recently traveled to Greece wrote, “Travel the world.”
And Jake Palladino, 13, wrote, “Marry Kate Upton.”
The boys said they often walk by the wall, but rarely stop to write on it. Instead they enjoy reading what others have written.
Other comments on the wall include: “Be a famous dancer,” and “Say I love you and mean it.”
Darivemula said the wall has been a success and she has seen a lot of positive and uplifting messages written on it.
“The majority of things that have been written have been amazing,” she said.
While the majority of the comments have been positive, there has been a great deal of slander and profanity written as well.
“Of course there are always a couple or two [comments] that are inappropriate,” Darivemula said. “We just wipe it down. It really hasn’t been that big a deal.”
The group of boys almost immediately pointed out the negative comments on the wall.
“There is some pretty inappropriate stuff on that,” Tucker said.
Palladino chimed in, “Yeah, there is inappropriate stuff.”
According to Darivemula, when negative comments have been written on the wall people who have noticed them have wiped them off.
“The community themselves are the ones cleaning it up and taking care of it,” she said. “It has definitely become a community piece of work.”
Union College students also help maintain the wall. Everything that is written on the wall is taken down when the wall is filled so there is room for people to write more.
Recently, the Schenectady City Council presented Darivemula and Union College with a resolution of appreciation for the wall. Darivemula said she is pleased and proud of the positive impact the wall is having on the community.
“Honestly, I think it is a great representation of what Schenectady is all about,” she said. “I hope people continue to write on it.”