Rarely does a class assignment lead to lasting relationships or memorable experiences beyond the class itself. But this semester, one project turned out to be a lot more than I expected – all in the best way imaginable.
When my partner and I were assigned to Paint Love for a semester-long project in our public relations course, we knew we had lucked out. This client assignment was more than your run-of-the-mill group project; it was the foundation of our work as soon-to-be communication professionals. Excited, albeit a little nervous, we jumped in headfirst.
Founded in Atlanta in 2013 by Julie McKevitt and her husband, Aaron, Paint Love has a mission of “connecting artists and nonprofits for a positive impact on youth.” Paint Love coordinates lessons taught by local artists for groups serving at-risk youth in the area. Last year alone, the young nonprofit reached over 700 kids through its art lessons.
From losing a parent or close loved one to living in Atlanta’s largest women and children’s shelter, these kids have been through more than most of us could imagine. And, they’re just eight, and 10 and 12 years old.
I’ve volunteered at two events, and I left both of them feeling happy, energized and full of love. Everyone who has volunteered knows the positive personal experience it can be, but working with Paint Love is like nothing I’ve done before.
I went in to it expecting little kids who didn’t understand or care what was going on, but I found young people who connected to the art on a deeper level than I could have imagined. The kids are creative, emotional, tough, funny and loving. And, some of them are talented artists.
I live for when the light bulb goes off…they’re kind of sitting there, not really getting it, then all of a sudden they make a connection with the art.”
I saw this, too, when I watched thirty elementary school students write phrases of self-affirmation on giant flower petals one afternoon in DeKalb. At first, none even understood how to write something positive about themselves, many were reluctant and others just didn’t want to. But by the end of the event, every one of them smiled proudly and showed off unique paper flowers covered in rainbow-lettered phrases declaring, “I am kind and beautiful,” “I share,” and “I love my friends every day.”
Since January, my partner and I have devoted hours each week to Paint Love, volunteering and writing news stories about events, and it’s been one of the most eye-opening and rewarding experiences I’ve had at the University of Georgia. I only wish I had found this incredible organization and the incredible things it’s doing before my final semester in Athens.
Paint Love makes a huge difference in the lives of these children, but it needs a lot of support. Donate money, art supplies or time, and I guarantee you’ll get hooked on Paint Love just like I have.
Visit www.gopaintlove.org to read more of Paint Love’s story and to find information on volunteering.