City Year considers Martin Luther King Day to be a day “on” and not “off”, and I’m so with that.
A little bit about what it is. Americorps members and volunteers get together in communities all over America on this Day of Service to serve in various ways, including serving at soup kitchens and beautifying school campuses. The service projects are mainly structured around creating more engaging learning environments for students because City Year is an education-based organization.
I served as an Americorps member with City Year Los Angeles at 116th Street Elementary School. I served as a “mid-year”, which means I came into the program at mid-point and served a total of 6 months.
It was quite a taxing experience, and yet one I would relive time and time again.
To give you an idea, we would arrive on campus most times at sunrise and wouldn’t leave until after sunset. In the mornings, we would meet to plan out the day and set up for the kids to welcome them to school. We would then sit with individual students, working to increase literacy. (We focused on literacy so much because there were students in the 5th grade about to head to middle school who couldn’t read on a 1st-grade level. The likelihood for these students to make it to high school is significantly decreased when they are not equipped with basic reading skills.)
After reading skills review, we would disperse to go into our assigned classrooms as teacher’s assistants and in-class tutors. During this time, we would pull small groups of students aside for enrichment activities. And, finally, after school, we would help the kiddos with their homework, teach enrichment lessons, and play until their parents came to pick them up.
What a day, right? Yeah, I know.
I’d be completely wiped after those days of service, but so utterly fulfilled.
MLK Day of Service 2018
So, because I had such an amazing experience with City Year Los Angeles as a member, I’ve committed to serving at MLK Day of Service wherever I may find myself in the future. I absolutely love the setup of the day. There’s color by numbers painting, sometimes gardening, and free pizza. Give me free pizza? You got me every time.
But seriously, though. Sure, there are so many devastating things happening around the world. There is a definite need for reaching out to our fam abroad, always. But, if there’s a heart to serve locally, there are also kids in our own backyard who need us.
The idea of students walking onto their campus the next day, eyes lit up in amazement at how different their school looks, motivated by quotes from prominent leaders, asking questions about the different college logos, and feeling more of a sense of school pride really does something for me. It makes me happy to think about the positive change in their lives that I was blessed to be a part of.
“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.