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Volunteer Group Helps Clean Up, Beautify Underserved City Public Schools

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- An army of volunteers on Saturday gathered to make schools across the five boroughs brighter and cleaner for students.

At PS 38 in East Harlem, students will have a new mural entryway and teachers will have revamped and reorganized libraries when they walk through the door Monday.

"I know we're going to be working on things that are going to help enhance our school community and support my teachers in doing that work that's necessary to ensure the success of my scholars," said Principal Carlina Santos-Barton.

There's no shortage of projects at the school that cares for students three-years-old to fifth grade, at least 20 percent of whom live in temporary housing. The renovations came as part of New York Cares Day for Schools, with some 3,000 volunteers working at 35 public schools across the city.

"These are high needs schools that need so much," said volunteer Catherine Carota Grossman. "We want to be able to give back and make their environment brighter, make the teachers' lives easier, and teach our young daughter that it's important to give back."

Volunteers tackled all kinds of projects. At PS 38, a basement that's been rendered unusable due to overflowing trash was cleaned and made habitable again.

"This is a cool annual event that cleans up school supplies for kids and helps kids who need a brighter school, so I thought that was a great mission," said volunteer Dan Greenberg.

New York Cares Executive Director Gary Bagley says his organization puts in the extra effort so that the city's children can have an education that's "the absolute best it can be."

"We have volunteers going to every borough saying 'we care'," he said.

Most of the schools the organization helps receive Title I funding, meaning they receive government money due to a high percentage of students from low income households.

New York Cares raised an additional $180,000 to help out.

"It gives them a lot of moral support, because every single other day they're challenged with the facts of life for their school," said Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

Staff at PS 38 say a fresh coat of paint and clean spaces do more for kids than you'd think - it shows them adults care about their education and gives them an environment where they can succeed.

New York Cares also offers students free SAT prep courses, and counselors to help obtain college scholarships.

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