Day of Service: Four projects and a lesson in American history

In New York City, honoring Yale’s first Chinese graduate at a school named for him.

Julie Brown

Julie Brown

Kaz Carter-McGinty and his mother, Miko McGinty ’93,’98MFA, paint a mural. View full image

Nine-year-old Kaz Carter-McGinty*, painting swaths of yellow on a playground wall, clearly didn’t care about the rain. Neither did his father, Nathan Carter ’99MFA. Nor his mother, Miko McGinty ’93,’98MFA, who had designed the mural they were all working on. Kas and his parents, along with 35 other volunteers, were spending their Day of Service at Yung Wing School, a predominantly Chinese public elementary school in Manhattan. It is named for Yung Wing—an 1854 Yale College graduate and the first Chinese graduate of a US university.

When McGinty signed up for a project at the school, she assumed she’d be shelving books or planting flowers. But a mural in the school’s playground had been covered in graffiti, and the principal asked the volunteers to design a new one. Since McGinty is a designer, the Yale project coordinator, Rocky Chin ’71MCP, put her in charge.

The rain was light, but the paint was dripping and the weather didn’t bode well. Would the mural be finished that day? If not, said McGinty, laughing, “we’ll just come back and finish it.” The school principal brought snacks for all the volunteers.

Although this was the tenth Yale Day of Service, it was the eleventh year in which Yale volunteers had chosen to devote a morning to Yung Wing. “We got started because we had set up AAAYA—the Association of Asian American Yale Alumni—and we were looking for a community project,” explained Kunduck Moon ’76. A school named for the first Chinese Yale graduate seemed just right.

Julie Brown

Julie Brown

Carolyn Muessle, Yale Club employee Diana Zhou, and Zhou’s daughters plant marigolds. View full image

In addition to painting McGinty’s mural, this year’s volunteers shelved and organized books in the library and looked through boxes of discarded books to find the ones good enough to ship to refugee camps in Jordan. Some also planted French marigolds. (When Diana Zhou, of the Yale Club payroll department, suggested that her two daughters plant the flowers in a pattern, seven-year-old Michelle was a little irked: “It doesn’t matter, Mom,” she said.) Those who wanted to escape the rain went to the school auditorium to watch a PBS documentary on the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, the law that had stripped Yung Wing of his US citizenship.

As the morning came to an end, the volunteers began putting away their trowels, books, and paintbrushes. “Thank you for coming!” shouted Carter-McGinty. He was still painting the mural, but soon headed to dim sum with a group of the volunteers.


* In our print edition and in an earlier version of this online article, we mistakenly identified Carter-McGinty as Kas Carter. We regret the error.

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