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Project 5: Volunteers beautify Sumner High with the organization 4theVille

Efforts at Sumner are just one way 4theVille is working to make a difference in the historic Ville neighborhood.

ST. LOUIS — School doesn't start for a couple of months, but volunteers from Project 5 and STL Windows Direct were getting a jump on things at Sumner High School Monday morning.

Project 5 partnered with the nonprofit 4theVille to get classrooms ready for the fall.

Efforts at Sumner are just one way 4theVille is working to make a difference in the historic Ville neighborhood.

"It is a community-based cultural organization that works to safeguard the legacy of this historic neighborhood," 4theVille Board Chairman Aaron Williams said. "This is, in a way, an activism effort, it's really a way to rewrite the narrative of the neighborhood and of the school."

The nonprofit works to preserve the legacy of the historic Ville neighborhood in north St. Louis city.

One way to do so is to keep Sumner High alive.

"There were considerations of closing Sumner High School and we stepped in saying we can't do this, it's too historic of an institution and we are willing to do a recovery plan to keep it open and restore it," Williams said.

That's where volunteers step in. They were cleaning out one classroom and taking it to the next to make room for what's to come.

Paving the way for a new program to settle in such as Sumner's Studio Lab with Washington University's Divided City Initiative.

The overall goal of StudioLab is to deepen understanding of the MLK commercial corridor and Sumner High School as physical and cultural sites.

It will focus on historic preservation, placekeeping, and community development. 

Matthew Bernstine is Washington University's Associate Director for the Office of Socially Engaged Practice and says this is the first community partnership. 

"There are opportunities through community workshops and listening sessions where Sumner high school students come into the fold," Bernstine says. 

This program will be a way to help build the future and honor the past.

4TheVille Co-Founder Julia Allen says this is about preserving history.

She's lived in the neighborhood for 72 years and remembers how it was.

"A lot of people don't know the history, we are trying to educate the history and the significance of the neighborhood," Allen shares. "It's very rich in history."

With their efforts, she hopes, they can move forward in the right direction.

"Over time, you will see this neighborhood transition back into a solid neighborhood where you have families again and real community," Allen says. 

Beyond this effort, the organization is behind several initiatives:

  • Community-based tourism
  • Multi-media art & storytelling
  • Preservation
  • Economic development

It also includes this weekend's Juneteenth community bike ride, which is in partnership with Trailnet and the Missouri Historical Society. It will teach bikers the rich history of Black music in the area.

For more information on it, click here.

Project 5 is sponsored by STL Windows Direct.

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