Community Engagement: Why It’s Important


November 3rd, 2012 marked City Year’s Fall Fest event hosted at C.W. Harris Elementary School. A staggering 242 family members and students from Kelly Miller Middle School, C.W. Harris and the general Benning Road community came out on a beautiful Saturday to enjoy an afternoon of music, food, and a variety of indoor and outdoor activities including a moon bounce, flag football, soccer, three legged races, face painting, a car show, line dancing, two musical performances, a basketball tournament and a cake walk.

As I strolled around through the vivacious crowd of dancers in the gym to the spirited soccer game in the field, I heard zealous conversations and laughter. I observed families relaxing together with heaping plates of food, teachers hugging children, parents conversing with other parents, familiar and new, and more poignantly, the community we serve coming together for a safe and peaceful afternoon.

The catalyst for this event was the concept of Ubuntu, “I am a person through other people. My humanity is tied to yours.” This event demonstrated that when you love and support a community in all aspects of life, you discover a deeper meaning and connection to humanity. As I see it, we as a nation have become very self-involved. We have lost sight of what it means to selflessly serve, to help others even when you have little to give. One of the greatest aspects of City Year is that Ubuntu lies at the heart of everything we do. City Year’s mission has inspired individuals of my generation, Generation Y, also known as Generation Me, to be a part of a movement bigger than ourselves. Ubuntu pushes people to look beyond a life of self-improvement via consumerism and superficial connections cultivated by social media, towards a desire to lead a life full of service to others.

Through mentoring and tutoring, we support our children and schools. True engagement, however, occurs when we support families and other individuals within the communities. The Fall Fest was an incredible example of community engagement, and a testament to how great it feels to watch ripples of joy spread throughout a community.

Maya Hurley-Wales, author, is a corps member on the Serve DC Team serving at C.W. Harris Elementary School.

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