By Haley Barbour
In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day we had the opportunity to volunteer with 1700 other people at Roosevelt High School in Northwest D.C. We were volunteering with City Year, and organization that partners with AmeriCorps to put young adults in underserved classrooms in major cities across the country.
We began the day in the large newly renovated auditorium waiting to hear from our guest speakers while the City Year members chanted together on stage. During the program we heard from the mayor of D.C. Muriel Bowser, the principle of Roosevelt High School Aqueelha James, the Executive Director of City Year D.C. Jeff Franco, and a key note address from Secretary of Education John King. The theme among all of the speeches was the importance of honoring Dr. King’s legacy through service. Secretary King specifically spoke about young people that were in his life growing up that got him to where he is today. Another theme was the importance of programs like City Year in making sure all of our kids are successful.
Once we left the auditorium we split into four groups that would be serving at four different schools in the D.C. public school district. I was one of two Drake students that headed to Powell Elementary School. At Powell I met Juliana Sierra, a member of City Year D.C. who was acting as the project manager for our project, and she gave me some insight into Powell. The elementary school is incredibly diverse and has one of the district’s highest concentration of Latino students. Because of this, Powell is one of D.C. public school district’s bilingual elementary schools. Powell had recently been renovated. D.C., under the leadership of Mayor Bowser, has committed to investing in education and is currently working on renovating every school in the district.
At Powell our job for the day was to “beautify” the space. The newly renovated walls needed some color. Our group specifically was working on a Dove Peace Project Mural. I thought that there was no better project to be working on, on MLK day. Other groups were working on murals about art, music, and robotics. About half of the projects were in Spanish, because of Powell’s bilingual curriculum. It was exciting to see the projects come together at the end, and I could not help but imagine the kids walking into the school the next morning to see how it had come alive. The principal of Powell Elementary was ecstatic about the improvements. She and some of the students that came out to volunteer went from group to group seeing the progress we had made and thanking us for our effort.
This experience was one of my favorites since we have been in D.C. I hope that the kids at Powell Elementary will get as much enjoyment and fulfillment out of our projects as we did. City Year did an amazing job organizing what could not have been an easy event to put on. I am proud to have been a part of it, and I hope the seemingly small amount of work we did will honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.