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Schenectady students use free time to spruce up high school

Schenectady students use free time to spruce up high school

How better to spend spring break than at school?
Schenectady students use free time to spruce up high school
Chris Sainato of Albany, center, paints the Schenectady High School mascot logo in the D wing hallway outside the cafeteria with, from left, Shania Robinson, 18, Parvatie Sukhram, Ahmad Ahmed, 15, and Amirah Muhammad, 17, on Wednesday.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

How better to spend spring break than at school?

A group of Schenectady High School students voluntarily went to school Tuesday, where they scrubbed a hallway wall clean of gunk dating back decades.

Then they painted the hall with primer, got out a projector and began to sketch.

This week, they are painting a mural that spans the length of one hallway.

“We wanted to do something to inspire the school,” said freshman Ahmad Ahmed.

They chose the school colors and the Patriot mascot — “the heart of our school,” Ahmed said. And as they covered white walls with blue and red, they began to imagine the reaction their fellow students will have next week.

“It’s really nice to have a color on the walls instead of a white wall,” said junior Amirah Muhammad, 17. “It can really change your state of mind if you have a color around you.”

After a day and a half of work, she could already feel the difference.

“It feels a lot brighter. It gives the school character,” she said.

The students designed the mural during the 21st Century Extended Day program, run by the school and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Schenectady.

It didn’t hurt that one of the clubs’ workers is a Union College senior majoring in visual arts.

Chris Sainato helped design the final version, as well as helping to corral overly ambitious ideas for eyeballs and accurate human faces.

“I wanted to keep it simple. A lot of the students don’t have a lot of experience,” Sainato said.

The design had to be approved by school administration as well, but officials embraced the idea enthusiastically.

Principal Diane Wilkinson said she was impressed when a student broached the idea, and that she loved the design.

But what she loved most was that students wanted to do it.

The project fits with the Extended Day Program’s goal of community service, said site leader Parvatie Sukhram.

“It incorporates service learned and actively engaging in their environment,” she said.

The students are doing most of the work themselves. It’s not as easy as it might have sounded when they were brainstorming project ideas.

“Don’t volunteer to clean a wall,” said junior Shania Robinson, 18.

Putting up the painter’s tape wasn’t fun either, and getting the projector to throw the image to just the right spot turned out to be a maddening, time-consuming task, they said.

But now they’re doing the fun part.

“We’re painting!” said freshman Zaiqa Popalzai, 15. “I’m excited. I’ve never done it before.”

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