COLOR Club + Design Team Supervisor

Engaging the highest risk youth through painting as a community and development of strong, transferable work habits.

Photo of natasha seng
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I work for a non-profit organization that takes part in the transformation of students' lives.  We target the at-highest risk students and engage them through painting at their schools.  We then immerse them in a culture of achievement in our offices 3 times a week that involve of Prep, that scaffolds educational plans that preps students for Regents, ACTs or SATs; we offer weekly workshops with several milestones that cover topics such as Health + Wellness, Life skills, Financial Literacy, Business Entrepreneurship and Design and Design Careers and on Saturdays students are assigned to community or school sites where they collaborate along side site staff + volunteers for painting projects, where students earn stipends that strengthen strong and transferable work habits.

[Optional] Synthesize a little! In one sentence, describe what you learned from your empathy exercises or analogous research. (Ex: Good advisors make a difference.)

Empathy exercises allowed me to think divergently and to explore a variety of solutions to a problem.


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Photo of Ela Ben-Ur

What wonderful work, Natasha!  I'll join the others with offering a connection - Year Up, a program with some similar characteristics who help young adults who initially missed the college transition and are coming back to it - till reading your post, it didn't occur to me that these are wonderful "extreme users" for this problem!  The wonderful Donald Ger is helping develop their programs, that partner with community colleges to help these students succeed - offering skill development and high standards around professionalism and technical abilities.  I don't believe they've explored the art lens, and I imagine you'd share a wonderful conversation!

Photo of Dan Ryder

This is super interesting work going on here, Natasha.  It is all bursting with intention.  Wondering if you know of Jeff Sparr and his work at  

Your sharing has me thinking about those students in the margins who need marketable skills as well as a creative outlet and how those two might synergize.  How might we reach into the cracks with an artistic bend to a commercial enterprise and a commercial bend to an artistic endeavor, all in the service of empowering students to succeed?  

Photo of natasha seng

Hi Dan!  No, I haven't heard but am on the way to doing some reading on the link provided!  I would love to know more about organizations that all have similar interests in narrowing the gaps.  

You know, right now Publicolor focuses on 5 main modules and 2 of those, Business Entrepreneurship and Financial Literacy have been so interesting to be a part of.  Being able to incorporate design thinking into the 2 aforementioned topics, at once seemed completely irrelevant but now it is transforming the way that people work.  I started having my students focus on Steve Blank's Lean Launchpad Method which is more about doing and taking risks and less about planning things out.  

The students were so engaged and started talking about Shark Tank and it was so awe-inspiring to watch them delve into becoming little entrepreneurs!  

I strongly believe that we need more organizations out there bridging both the right and left sides of the brain to make a "whole" company.  

Photo of Lisa Yokana

Hi Natasha! I'm an art teacher and know first hand the transformational work that being in a studio space provides students. I loved your post. It would be cool to interview one of them about their experience, right? Also, do you know the work of Emily Pilloton and Studio H?
You should check them out when you have a chance. Would love to learn more about what you do and will check out the links you sent!

Photo of Molly McMahon

Natasha -- wow. This is incredible work, and loved learning even more about Publicolor. Did you see Iris post on Innovatieklas.

Seems like you two would have a lot to connect on. Also, it would be great for our community to learn from your students or advisor through an empathy interview. This would help all of us put ourselves in their shoes. And, do you ever draw inspiration from other sectors? Have you looked at apprentice programs in other sectors? Check out some inspirations below:

Photo of natasha seng

Hi Molly, 
Thanks again for all your thoughtful words.  We are always actively engaging our students into new sectors both in the design world and out.  
We strongly believe in immersing our kids to a variety of career paths and to be able to apply design thinking into everything they tackle.  

Being part of Publicolor, is being part of a revolution.  Watching students move in our continuum from 7th grade through graduating high school and then transitioning into college is one of the most rewarding experiences I have had.  Meeting them for the first time and facing challenges and struggles they brought to our studio on a weekly basis and then making this incredible transformation on this journey is what we are here for and it never gets old watching them succeed and grow.  

Photo of Christina Jenkins

Hey natasha seng! I started teaching ten years ago at a middle school in the Bronx that worked with Publicolor for about a year, and it was so transformative for the kids. I heard later that one of them continued with the program through high school, and another one of my students at a high school downtown was also involved. I still remember that Cara, our Publicolor mentor/teacher, would bring snacks for the kids that were "unusual" in some way - sushi, etc - because she believed that all of the work (even eating!) was meant to help them understand that trying new things is awesome. I just referred a new school on the LES to Publicolor because it was such an incredible experience for me and my students. You should definitely say more about the organization in this space - I'm sure other folks would love to know more.

Photo of natasha seng

Hi Christina!
Small world!!  Cara is great, she took a leave of absence but she is back now and she is so special and a valued part of the team!  You did?  I really appreciate that, the more schools we can transform the bigger of an educational and design revolution impact we can have.  I am so glad to hear your story and to have your continuos support.  

Photo of James Abbott

I love it! his is a long term skill-building, mentorship-based program that helps individuals develop confidence over time and practical world experience that is transferable to both academic life and occupations.