October, 27 2012 was City Year’s Make a Difference service project at Story School, which was my fifth service event with City Year. I have held a variety of different roles at various levels for these projects, from the humble volunteer to the proud planner. This is my journey and a cycle that is about to come full circle.
It all started January, 17 2011, during City Year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day service project at South Division High School. I was in the process of applying for City Year Milwaukee when the Recruitment Department called and asked me to come to their upcoming service event. I thought that this might be a good way to learn more about City Year, as well as give City Year a chance to learn a little more about me. After watching “PT” which was a group of people who run out on stage jogged in circles while cheering loudly, I was brought to my project where I spent the day painting talking to a City Year Cleveland Alumni and a few UWM students about both City Year and their lives. After the completion of our project I can vividly remember going home and telling everyone how excited I was about City Year and how I hoped that I would get accepted.
Fast forward to April, 30 2011. I decided to attend another service day called South Side Service Day, at Alexander Mitchell Integrated Arts School. I was now a confirmed Corps Member for the 2011-2012 service year. After talking to a few familiar faces and some light physical training which I know understood was PT, we began service. This time I was in a teacher’s classroom cleaning, organizing, hanging jacket hooks and painting numbers. I had the same feeling as before. I was ecstatic and looking forward to the upcoming year.
Fast forward again to August 15, 2011. The time had finally come, it was my first official day as a Corps Member. How did I spend the majority of the day? Digging a big hole that collected water, so when it rained the water wouldn’t erode the river banks at the Urban Ecology Center. I can honestly say as someone who has come from a trade where I have dug my fair share of holes and trenches, that this was the most fun I have ever had digging a hole. A few short weeks later, I was told that I was going to be part of the Civic Engagement Team, the team that plans City Year’s service projects. To be honest I had mixed feelings about this at first, until we started planning our first event. I found it incredibly exciting selecting and designing murals that could be painted at Northwest Secondary School for City Year’s Make a Difference Day service project. It was even more exciting that we were going to be holding Make a Difference Day at the school I was then serving at. I quickly decided that I was going to do everything that I could to do to make this day go as smoothly as possible.
I think this project is truly what awoke my passion for physical service and the power of its transformative influences. I spent a portion of my corps year doing everything that I possible could do and think of to become the next Civic Engagement Project Leader, who coordinates and leads service projects, for City Year Milwaukee.
In addition to serving as a tutor, mentor, role model, leading PT and being a part of a team that hosted externals, I also had the opportunity to create several extended service learning projects in our afterschool program. Northwest Secondary’s Global Youth Service Day was a particularly successful event. I had recently accepted the Civic Engagement Project leader position for 2012-2013 and the first chanceto plan an event on my own. I planned a variety of projects that allowed students to use their artistic ability, as well as gave them a chance to perform light construction. First, the students took down several cabinet doors in our City Year room, sanded the old paint off, sketched and painted new murals and rehung the doors. It was awesome seeing the students really getting into their artwork and bragging about how good of painters they were. The second project we completed was a bottle cap mural bench. This bench has a 12 inch back that is screwed to the back where a mural would usually be painted. However, instead of painting a mural we attached bottle caps, in a similar method to laying tile, incorporating both the school’s and city years logo we created a success themed mural. The best part of this project was that in honor of the many Global Youth Service Day projects that took place across the city there was an award ceremony at Discovery World. We had submitted a video of our project to be shown at the ceremony and entered into a project contest. As a result of the competition Northwest students won 25 cinch backpacks that were distributed to all the students who participated in our event. Additionally, students who came to Discovery World to watch their video got to spend the rest of their time enjoying all of the attractions at Discovery World.
This year I am serving as the Civic Engagement Project Leader for City Year Milwaukee and on October 27th my team of Civic Engagement Coordinators and myself planned and coordinated our first large scale service day for Make a Difference Day. 126 volunteers came out to Story School and truly made a difference. We painted over 80 murals and quotes, which included college logos, sport silhouettes, story characters and historical figures in themed hallways. The murals and quotes will help to create an environment focused around academic success, reading and choice extracurricular activities. Additionally, volunteers renewed Story’s outdoor classroom by adding mulch and raising and refreshing the existing garden bed at the school’s entrance. On top of that, we built two benches where parents can watch their kids play on the playground, and one, a planter bench, will give students a place to watch plants grow. With 92% of volunteers replying with “good” or “great” responses on our surveys, I was taken aback by all of the positive feedback. I cannot put into words how proud I was after this event. To me it was unlike any event that I have ever been a part of. I felt as if all of the hard work that went into selecting the right murals, paint and locations all boiled down to that one day. Seeing all the volunteers happy, having fun, painting and making a difference… well nothing could be better than that.
In another six months I will have the honor to graciously pass along the reigns to another young and enthusiastic Project Leader who I will humbly serve with at the following year’s service projects.
Yours in service,
Civic Engagement Project Leader
City Year Milwaukee