City Year Serves in Honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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.

Highland Park Elementary School Walks to School with Mayor McGinn

On a beautiful, crisp fall morning, City Year corps members serving at Highland Park Elementary School had the opportunity to walk to school with Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn. As part of International Walk to School Day, the Mayor kicked things off with a brief dedication of a newly installed crosswalk located on SW Holden Street. Just five blocks away from the school, this busy street has been difficult to cross in the past, but not any longer!

As Mayor McGinn addresses the crowd, corps members William and John provide a helpful hand.

As Mayor McGinn addresses the crowd, corps members William and John provide a helpful hand.

Community members joined the “walking school bus” as it made its way to Highland Park Elementary School, and cheers of support were extended from neighbors who
waived to the bus from front porches.

The Walking School Bus uses the new crosswalk while making its way to Highland Park Elementary School.

The Walking School Bus uses the new crosswalk while making its way to Highland Park Elementary School.

Upon reaching the school, the “walking school bus” was joined by additional students
and parents. Energy and excitement filled the air as students eagerly asked Mayor McGinn questions and proudly showed off their vibrant playground.

Alongside Mayor McGinn, corps member William engages with a Highland Park parent and student.

Alongside Mayor McGinn, corps member William engages with a Highland Park parent and student.

City Year corps members talked with parents and community members throughout the morning. City Year is proud to be part of the Highland Park community!

City Year Seattle hosts its first Investing in Education Breakfast


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City Year Seattle/King County’s first Investing in Education Breakfast was held Thursday, November 3rd. The event provided an opportunity for citizens who believe in the importance of education to network with peers and hear how the City of Seattle, Seattle Public … Continue reading

Powerful Service, Powerful Leaders


This gallery contains 5 photos.

City Year‘s tagline is “give a year. change the world.” The understanding of that tagline is found in its inherent duality. A corps member must work to change their outer world: the students and communities they serve, while they simultaneously work … Continue reading

City Year Seattle’s Opening Day Ceremony

Originally from Albuquerque and a graduate of the University of New Mexico, Jonath Ochsankehl is a City Year Seattle/King County corps member serving at Dearborn Park Elementary School. In the post below, Jonath reflects on his first month of service in Seattle and the 2011 Opening Day ceremony.

Jonath Ochsankehl (far right) and fellow Corps Members take time to enjoy their Opening Day Ceremony

On October 7th, 2011, City Year corps members from across the nation celebrated Opening Day. In preparation for the event I found myself hammering out Double-D stomps (a Physical Training move), memorizing the City Year pledge, and constantly being reminded of the reasons why I chose to serve. Initially I was unsure of the purpose of the Opening Day Ceremony, but one of my fellow corps members gave light to its significance when she explained that it was the one day out of ten months where the focus would be on us. It would be a brief couple hours where we would not merely be reminded of, but celebrated for, our commitment to serve– until we were inevitably sent back to our respective schools to spend our time and energy dedicated to making children aware of how amazing they are, how much the world has to offer them, and paving the way for them to succeed.

Corps Members stand at formation before demonstrating Physical Training or "PT"

I stood inside Town Hall that wet, Seattle morning and proudly took the pledge to serve to the best of my ability. While I may not yet know the impact I will have on the children I currently work with, corps member, Jessie Curry inspired all of our service during her address to the corps.

Corps Member Speaker Jessie Curry (far right) with City Year Seattle Staff Members

When Jessie Curry was handed the hammer of service from a member of last year’s corps, she spoke to us about how many of her students at Wing Luke Elementary ask about members of last year’s corps and reminded us that next year we will be “those corps members who made such an impact on the students we serve that we are remembered even over an entire summer and beyond.” While it saddens me to be reminded of my departure from this program so near the start of my service, it also inspires me on those difficult days when I question my abilities as a mentor due to unfocused and challenging students.

City Councilmember Tim Burgess Speaks to the 2011-2012 City Year Seattle Corps

Opening Day reminded me not only of the difference we as a corps will be making in the lives of numerous children, but also of the support we have from the Seattle community. City Year supporters attending Opening Day included National Leadership Sponsors like Comcast and local Seattle sponsors including JP Morgan Chase, NELA,  and Macy’s as well as Seattle City Councilmember, Tim Burgess, Seattle Public Schools Superintendent, Dr. Susan Enfield, Dearborn Park Elementary Principal, Angela Bogan, and local and National City Year Board Members. That morning amidst City Year champions I felt connected to our own brother and sister City Year sites across the world united in a common goal as stated in the City Year pledge:

I pledge…

To serve as a city year member to the very best of my ability,

To honor the rules and expectations of City Year,

To respect my colleagues and the people and communities we serve,

To provide excellent service,

To lead by example and be a role model to children,

To celebrate the diversity of people, ideas and cultures around me,

To serve with an open heart and an open mind,

To be quick to help and slow to judge,

To do my best to make a difference in the lives of others

And to build a stronger community, nation and world for all of us.

Text by Jonath Ochsankehl, City Year Seattle/King County corps member