Purpose Prize

Marc Freedman Portrait

The Latest from CoGenerate

Documentary Brings the Beauty of Cogeneration to PBS

Documentary Brings the Beauty of Cogeneration to PBS

A new documentary film, Ink & Linda, chronicles the unexpected friendship between Inksap, a Vietnamese-American street artist in his 20s, and Linda, a white modern dance teacher in her 70s. Shortly after a chance encounter brings these two together, they begin...

Announcing the CoGen Challenge to Advance Economic Opportunity

Announcing the CoGen Challenge to Advance Economic Opportunity

We’re out to show the world that older and younger people can help solve pressing problems when they work together. To that end, today we’re launching the CoGen Challenge to Advance Economic Opportunity, a partnership with the Ares Charitable Foundation to elevate...


Ruth Shuman

Purpose Prize Fellow 2009

Professing that colorful environments can transform attitudes and behavior, Shuman develops programs in which public school students colorfully paint the common areas in their inner-city schools, learning a marketable skill.

In early 1994, Shuman visited an arts-in-education program in several public schools in Harlem, a predominantly low-income neighborhood in New York City. “I was appalled at how these schools appeared,” she recalls. “They were colorless, lifeless, and hostile-looking, and it was clear that these negative environments were contributing to the soaring dropout rate.” That year, Shuman founded Publicolor, which runs a continuum of after-school programs through which middle and high school students paint their school’s public spaces with warm, inviting colors. These at-risk students then move through youth development programs that help them envision, plan and prepare for college. Shuman works with principals to find students whose self-worth has been shattered by failure and who are at high risk of dropping out. The organization reports that it directly engages more than 1,400 students yearly. Last school year, 86 percent of the high school seniors enrolled in Publicolor graduated in four years, compared with 42 percent of their classmates. Meanwhile, 100 percent of Publicolor’s graduates advanced to college; all were the first in their families to reach that level of education. Shuman, 65, hopes to bring Publicolor to other cities with struggling school systems.