Chicago’s “Day On”: MLK Day 2011

By vulpas on January 21, 2011 in AmeriCorps

“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.

This quote, read during the service day opening ceremony at a south-side Chicago Salvation army to 1,000 volunteers, perfectly embodied our experience serving the community this past Monday.  The Chicago City Year program organized a gigantic service day that took place in three elementary schools in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood.  We spent the day with a diverse group of volunteers including young children, current AmeriCorps and alum, families, and corporate employees.

All volunteers set out from the Salvation Army bundled in winter clothes and escorted by city police cars around 9:30am.  It was a gusty, snowy morning but spirits were high as we walked through the neighborhood we were going to serve.

As a team, we were assigned to working at Stagg Elementary school.  The school’s project theme centered around literacy.  Stairwells were painted with motivational words and hallways displayed brightly colored high frequency words that increase in difficulty when moving from the first to the third floor of the school.  We worked on making a hands-on painted alphabet for the school’s library which will help students learn their letters.

At Guggenheim Elementary school, volunteers painted fruits and vegetables on cafeteria walls and color wheels in the art room.  They also worked to reorganize and repaint the teachers lounge to make break time more enjoyable for staff.  The walls of D.S. Wentworth Elementary school were decorated with West African Andrinka symbols which volunteers painted on the walls of all three floors in the school.

We met people serving in different capacities and, while painting our letters, were able to talk to other AmeriCorps members about their programs around Chicago.  City Year did an incredible job organizing the event which included tracing over 100 murals in three schools and preparing supplies for the different projects that were going on.

We ended the day by helping clean up the project areas and attending a closing ceremony where the Principal of Stagg Elementary school thanked us for our service to the children and the community.

In truth, the school was transformed.  The brightly colored hallways and alphabet letters brought smiles to our faces and pride to our hearts.  We could only imagine the positive impact the changes we made to the school would have on the students coming back to school Tuesday morning.

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