Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. said “Life’s most persistent question is: what are you doing for others?” These profound words from Doctor King remind us of the empowerment and joy one can receive through a lifetime dedication to service. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day stands as a national holiday to encourage civic engagement in service work that strengthens our communities and echoes Kings’ commitment to fighting injustice.
On Monday, January 21, 2013 Seattle’s entire City Year corps, staff and over 40 volunteers gathered at Denny International Middle School in West Seattle to engage in physical service. We served as a a team of dedicated children, current and former City Year board members, and employees of Starbucks; including President of US Operations, Cliff Burrows and Regional Director, Mitch Evans.
Denny International is a new building with many blank walls. To create a more welcoming and supportive environment for our scholars, we spent the day painting a large mural in one of the school’s main stairwells. Assistant Principal Patricia Rangel spoke to the powerful artwork designed by Intensive School Partnership Coordinator for Seattle Public School District, Nate Sanders, calling the mural “A project that’s an evolving mirror to our entire community about the importance of knowing our history, remembering our heroes, and recognizing that we contribute to this journey of justice every day in the commitment we make to our students and our work together.”
Across the street, at the park which is part of The Southwest Teen Life Center and former location of the old Denny School building, City Year corps members and volunteers got their hands dirty weeding and landscaping rain gardens. Each of the sizeable rain gardens are critical to the ecological health of the community and provide a natural filtration of our region’s rain water before reaching Puget Sound. The project’s lead coordinator, Gretchen DeDecker with Seattle Public Schools claims the job done on Monday translates to nearly three months of staff work time. DeDecker thanks the corps, stating: “Today you reminded me why I LOVE City Year! Your positive spirit, energy, organization skills, and endurance made such a huge difference at the raingardens.”
Corps Member Sam Boutelle proudly reflects on the meaning and impact of our MLK day service: “The civil rights movement demonstrated the imperative for the unity of purpose in effecting social change. Although we didn’t move mountains on MLK day, I do believe that the collaboration and fellowship we got to enjoy as we served made the day brighter for all involved and demonstrated the power that we share together.”
Written by Becka Gross, City Year corps member serving as a dedicated tutor and mentor this year to the students at Denny International Middle School.