‘Let’s Paint’ gives at-risk students in West Hartford a fresh start and a second chance

WEST HARTFORD -- Paint brushes and drop cloths are standard at  REACH, an alternative high school in West Hartford. Every Tuesday and Thursday at REACH, they paint the hallways and classrooms inside the school, and later they'll do the outside.

The program is called "Let's Paint." It's working to help at-risk students learn effective workplace skills, through project-based learning. Their project here is painting the entire school.

"It's using a different kind of learning, project-based learning, which is what we do in the real world. We work in teams, we work on projects. This is reinforcing those skills where traditional classwork doesn't necessarily do that," said Martha Guidry, Executive Director at the Capital City Education Alliance.

On the days they paint, the students clock in and out just like they would on a job. They’re also evaluated on things like wearing a uniform, being a good team player, and helping out - all skills that will help them be successful in the work force. The program also gives these students a second chance to earn their high school diplomas.

“It's really important to me to finish. My dad passed a few years ago and I just want to get that diploma so just to make him proud,” shares student Sean Marzik.

“When people come here they try harder because they know that they already had their first chance and so for their second chance they're gonna do way better, " said another student, Diamond McLeod. "It's definitely an opportunity you have to take it.”

“It's very tangible, it's very real and there's an incredible sense of accomplishment, and that's what we're trying to do is help kids feel what accomplishment feels like, because if you know what success feels like, it breeds more success,” said Guidry.

“The teachers are great, everybody helps you phenomenally and just if you have any trouble they're there to help. It’s like the best think I’ve ever done in high school,” explained Sean.

Both Sean and Diamond agree that they get a sense of accomplishment and pride in their work, along with renewed confidence and hope for their future.

To find ways to help or volunteer, click here.