Governor Deval Patrick briefly joined about 60 eighth-graders, part of the volunteer organization Project 351, as they painted murals and packed school supply bags at the Dudley Street Neighborhood Charter School in Roxbury on Saturday.
“I don’t think you can underestimate the power, the transformative power, of service,” said Patrick, who founded Project 351 as part of his 2011 inauguration. The name is a nod to the 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts.
Events were held at seven community service sites across Boston Saturday. Across the city, about 400 volunteers from eighth-grade classrooms statewide made birthday cards and packed personal care kits for homeless people at the Pine Street Inn in the South End, packed clothes, books, and toys at Cradles to Crayons in Brighton, and helped run activities for children at the Orchard Gardens Boys & Girls Club in Roxbury.
As Patrick walked around the room, shaking volunteers’ hands, eighth-grader Matthew Li of Carlisle snapped a photo of himself with the governor.
“Yeah, that was pretty awesome,” he later said.
Li, whose teachers nominated him as a Project 351 ambassador, said he liked the idea of learning about and doing community service.
“It’s also nice to meet people from around the state,” he said.
On Saturday, Li colored in a mural of a smiling cartoon radish with Lilly Wells, an eighth-grader from Ashfield.
Assistant principal Jennie McDonald-Brown said the white walls made the elementary school seem institutional and dull. A little color, she said, will help her students feel more welcome.
“This building was built in 40 B.C.,” she joked. “It’s the oldest building in Boston.”
The Dudley Street Neighborhood Charter School, which opened in the fall of 2012, has about 180 students between prekindergarten and second grade, and is set to expand to 325 students including prekindergarten through fifth grade in the next few years. Its building is the former Ralph Waldo Emerson Elementary School , which opened in 1923.
“We think kids learn better in a vibrant environment,” McDonald-Brown said. “It changes the way they approach school, the way they think about school. They want to be here.”
Volunteers Saturday painted panel murals with Ninja Turtles and the school’s core values: cooperation, assertiveness, responsibility, empathy, and self-control. Adult volunteers would later anchor the panels to walls around the school.
“When the kids come back, they are going to flip out,” said Princess Bryant, a dance instructor in the school’s extended-day program. “They’re not going to recognize that this is their school.”