Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve. You donʼt have to have a college degree to serve. You donʼt have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You donʼt have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You donʼt have to know Einsteinʼs theory of relativity to serve. You donʼt have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
February 4, 1968
Inspiring: that is one word I heard used over and over to describe City Year Washington, DCʼs Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service on Monday, January 20th. It was used to describe the work that volunteers and City Year corps members were doing at Coolidge Senior High School, Whittler Education Campus and Paul Public Charter School. The sheer number of volunteers that came out to serve their community, nearly 1,200, was inspiring and also made this event the largest service event in the District. It was also inspiring to see volunteers who stayed at their projects after the service day finished to complete the work that they started. All of the volunteers showed their love for the DC community through their service.
There were many projects that were completed at each site. At Coolidge Senior High School, volunteers painted murals in the cafeteria, hallways and the main entrance. They also helped clean out classrooms in order to make space for new furniture. Volunteers at Whittier Education Campus made homelessness kits, painted and made sandwiches for food banks in the DC area. And finally, at Paul Public Charter School, volunteers painted murals in the cafeteria and made compost bins, picnic tables, benches and Bananagram tiles for the students to use.
What surprised me the most about this day of service was not the amazing work that was completed or the positive attitude and willingness from all the volunteers, but the diversity of the volunteers that came out to serve for a day. There were college students from many schools around the District serving with their sororities and fraternities. A veteran organization, Mission Continues, also had a large group helping out. This groupʼs mission is to involve veterans in community work so they can have a legacy of action and service. In addition to AmeriCorps alumni and current members, many City Year alums came back for this day of service. Many students from Coolidge Senior High School, Whittier Education Campus and Paul Public Charter School, as well as students from the schools City Year serves every day, helped immensely during the day and showed other volunteers the reason for doing all of this work.
As we–the City Year corps members–go into our final months of service, it will be days like this that I am sure we will remember long after our year of service is over.
Charly Snellings, author, is a corps member serving at Thomas Elementary School, sponsored by DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative.