Crescent Park Students Paint A Brighter Future

Contra Costa Times

By Chris Treadway | August 20, 2009


Students paint a brighter future


About the only downside to be found with a summer youth apprenticeship program in the Crescent Park neighborhood is that the nine young men participating came away with paint-spattered bluejeans. Everything else about the program looks like a winner for all involved.

While the nine teenagers and young adults spent much of the summer learning a useful skill, the more than 14,200 lineal feet of fence surrounding the 378-unit Crescent Park affordable housing complex in South Richmond received a new coat of paint.

Painting contractor Derek Barrett found a way to reach out to the area where he grew up and possibly found some new employees. Crescent Park found a benefactor in paint-maker Kelly Moore, which donated some 400 gallons of its new “eco paint” for the project. And the community found that a collaboration like this can go a long way to keeping young people out of trouble and on track for a productive life after high school.

“They’re a great group of kids. They did a great job,” said Barrett, the founder and owner of D&B Painting, a 16-year-old firm based in Oakland. Barrett noted that he “grew up around the corner on Cutting Boulevard.”The young painters were honored Friday by the partners in the “Paint a Brighter Future” program — including the city’s YouthWORKS office, Kelly Moore Paints, Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, and officials from Crescent Park and its owner, nonprofit organization EAH Housing.

“They learned the business of painting: preparation, the ‘no-drip’ policy, properly mixing paint,” said Bernard Furlow of D&B Painting. “Once you show them how they just seem to go and do it, which is great because they can show independence and the ability to complete the task.”

Just as important was what he called “the cool factor.” “It’s cool to make legitimate money,” he said. “We’re hoping the more we do in the community the kids will see it and want to come out and be part of it.”

The painting apprenticeship was part of the city’s YouthWORKS summer employment program, which provided job experience for 660 young people at 140 sites around the city, said program director Jay Leonhardy.

“That makes us the largest youth employment program in the state and that’s because the community steps up,” he said, pointing out that $200,000 of this year’s $500,000 YouthWORKS budget comes from individual and company or organization donations.

Charles Baldwin, a 17-year-old at El Cerrito High School, found “Paint a Brighter Future” beneficial beyond the $1,000 in pay he earned putting in 30-hour weeks.”I like doing this. I learned it fast,” he said. “I want to do this when I graduate.”

“This affords young people an alternative to getting into the kinds of things they should not be getting into,” said Kelly Crowell, director of the Crescent Park Multicultural Family Resource Center for EAH.

They learn a skill and the concept of earning money. It’s a guide in terms of their future about making good choices. Their peers look up to them as role models.