A child participant in the Publicolor program. Photo courtesy of Publicolor

Publicolor eases shift to online learning for students and parents

With the coronavirus posing a multitude of challenges to many students and parents, NYC non-profit Publicolor is providing online tutoring, stipends and food delivery to families to help assist. 

COLOR Club Director Natasha Seng says that a lot of families in the program are going through a tough time and Publicolor, an after-school mentoring program, is working to ease some of the stress. 

“Right now, we provide as much as we can. There’s constant communication, emotional health services, an inventory team that donates food and we’re still paying our students stipends,” she said.

Publicolor currently has 251 students ranging from 7-12th grade enrolled in their program.  Students are recommended by school officials based on who they feel will benefit the most. Before most of NYC was shut down, Publicolor served as a second home after school for many students. 

“A lot of them are overwhelmed and for some it is pretty daunting,” said Seng. “We want to make sure they learn and that we support them.” 

Lindsay Guallpa, 17, is a student enrolled in the program. She says Publicolor has been even more helpful during the pandemic. 

“My family knows that if it comes down to the worst we don’t have to worry about food, we know that Publicolor can help us out. The reassurance makes us all relieved,” she said.

Publicolor’s starting goal was to revitalize public space with color, which is how they got their name. While they have students from all over the city, a large number live in the Bronx. Many of their painting projects also take place in the Bronx.

Along with providing food and stipends, Publicolor provides students with a tutor who meets with a student every weekday for up to two hours, along with daily check-ins. The one-on-one time with students is even more important now that learning has shifted to online classrooms. 

For Guallpa, the tutoring is crucial to her learning. “The way we are taught is different now. I need someone to guide me,” she said. 

Jemme Aldridge, 35, became a tutor at Publicolor at the start of the pandemic but has been involved with the organization for about 12 years. Her approach is to try to relate new topics to students in a manner they can relate to. This might mean  comparing blood cells to a Marvel defense team, or comparing pizza to a pancreas, during what she calls “science time.” 

“I just try to find new ways to get them involved so they can just focus on the knowledge,” said Aldridge.

One of her favorite aspects of being a tutor is being able to connect to young minds.  

“Tutoring is more than just tutoring. There’s a lot of mentoring.” 

Publicolor plans to keep the same level of assistance for the foreseeable future. 

“I think that all of our kids are thriving with our staff,” said Seng. “We want to continue providing encouragement and assistance everyday until we get back to normal.” 

Parents are encouraged to visit Publicolor.org for further information.