More than 100 volunteers paint walls at Newark high school for MLK Day

By Bill Wichert | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on January 19, 2015

Anthony Jules and his 12-year-old son, Alexander, were among the more than 100 volunteers painting walls at East Side High School in Newark today as part of the 7th Annual Jersey Cares MLK Day of Service.

 

NEWARK — Eighteen-year-old Amanda Santiago said the project underway today at East Side High School in Newark was the type of scene Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. always wanted to see.

More than 100 volunteers were crammed into two stairwells and a hallway to paint the walls. Hands and clothing became covered with blotches of paint as children and adults scurried across plastic sheets covering the floor.

Just as King had wanted, people of different backgrounds were united in an effort to give back to their community, Santiago said.

“It’s kind of like our community is united and everybody’s coming together to make a change in the world,” said Santiago, a senior at Newark’s Technology High School and one of the volunteers. “All ages, all colors, all races.”

The painting was one of the service projects organized by Jersey Cares, a Newark-based nonprofit organization, as part of its 7th Annual Jersey Cares MLK Day of Service.

That campaign included more than 1,000 volunteers working on projects in 11 counties across New Jersey to celebrate King’s legacy of service to others, said Brian Dean, executive director of Jersey Cares.

“This is a great way for us to celebrate what we do all year round and get people out in the community to help others in celebration of his legacy,” Dean said.

The volunteers at East Side High School painted the hallway in the school colors of white and red, and painted the stairwells in white. Going forward, students are expected to paint artistic designs in the stairwells.

Among the volunteers were Anthony Jules, his 12-year-old son, Alexander, and his 16-year-old daughter, Erica, all of whom came to the high school from their home in Sayreville.

The project marked the fifth consecutive year that they’ve participated in a service event on the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, according to Anthony Jules.

By taking part in the service projects, Jules said he hopes his children take away the lesson of helping others.

“I think it’s just that they’re interconnected with everyone and should always look to serve their fellow person,” Jules said. “Ultimately, that’s what I want them to keep doing throughout their lives.

“For me and I hope for them, it’s important for them to understand that… Dr. King’s life was service-oriented for all people,” Jules added.

Jules said the family decided to visit East Side High School, because his son wanted to paint after being too young to do so during a similar event at another high school two years ago.

“He always wanted to do painting,” Jules said.

Alexander Jules, who is in the sixth grade in Sayreville, said, “I like painting and I just like helping people.”

For Alexander, King’s message is “all people should respect each other.” “It doesn’t matter if you’re…different,” he added.

The volunteers at today’s event also included some people working in the AmeriCorps program at Greater Newark LISC, according to Judith Thompson-Morris, the agency’s senior program officer.

Thompson-Morris said it was important to honor King’s memory by working in the community and demonstate that “to be a leader, you have to also be a servant.”

“You have to serve to be able to understand…what it means to lead,” she said. “For service…it’s the little things that matter."

Thompson-Morris added, “Even if it’s just a matter of painting a wall, it really is an important little thing that really matters…for the community as a whole.”

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