LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

SEATTLE -- It's been a quarter century since it had a major makeover. A dozen years since it saw its last coat of paint.

The campus of White Center's Arts & Academics Academy is a lesson in decay.

Kids say they don't like it because it looks ghetto, said 17-year-old Maribel Juarez.

Ghetto is a label Juarez and her friends know all too well and want to change. Along with all of her other responsibilities as she heads into her senior year, Juarez worries about things she shouldn't have to.

You hear about kids getting robbed for their phones, she said. It's just scary.

So, in what is a small, but significant gesture, Maribel and a group of classmates are spending six weeks of their summers in the hot, rather depressing halls of their high school. Their mission is to completely redesign the school's computer lab.

I'm really excited. It's gonna be fun, said student Sajhaira Garibay.

Over the course of the six weeks the students visit design studios and architects to learn what to do and to find artistic inspiration. They then pick paint colors, design the layout of the room, choose furniture and then make their vision a reality. When school starts this fall, the old computer room will have a whole new look and feel.

It'll create better vibes, good vibes for people, said Maribel.

The point isn't to whitewash White Center with a coat of fresh paint, but to inspire students to believe they can have a positive impact not just on their school, but their entire community.

Even if they don t know it, these kids are being instilled with an attitude of giving back, said teacher Anne Gregory.

Since the project started two years ago, she has seen students taking more pride in their school, and even pushing back on bullying.

It's not just making a place prettier, said Gregory. It's making a place a better community for themselves.

I want this community to be safer, to be better, said Maribel. Everybody has the potential to change things for the better.

The program is sponsored by the Seattle Art Museum. For more information visit the Design Your Hood blog.

Read or Share this story: http://www.nwcn.com/story/life/2014/08/18/14026144/