Over the years, I had come to think of MLK Day as a day to reflect on the legacy of a great man, as a three-day weekend, and time off from work. This year, I decided it was going to be different. My family and I were going to honor Dr. King by doing a hands-on service project.
City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley, one of Edgility’s repeat clients, extended an invitation for us to participate in their MLK Day of Service. I have had the pleasure of working on two executive search projects with City Year. The first, three years ago, was to help them find their Executive Director/Vice President, Pete Settelmayer. Most recently, we helped them hire Sharon Ogborn, their Managing Director, Development.
City Year was founded in 1988 as a national service program to unite young adults from diverse backgrounds for a demanding year of full-time community service. City Year AmeriCorps members serve as student success coaches helping students in under-resourced communities build on their strengths and cultivate social, emotional, and academic skills that are important in school and life. Each year, City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley organizes an all-hands-on-deck service project at a different school to show the community the depth of their commitment. This year, City Year partnered with San Antonio Elementary School in East San Jose. It was a day focused on creating an even more engaging learning environment by painting murals outside and in the hallways of the school, enhancing play areas, building benches and tables, and planting trees.
The event began with opening remarks from Pete and local officials, including the Mayor of San Jose, Sam Liccardo. My family and I were assigned to a team making student benches for the school’s pick-up area. Each group was assigned a City Year team leader to help guide them through the project day. We gathered around in what they termed as a “learning circle”, did introductions, and then came together with hands in the middle of the circle and a cheer to start off our day. It reminded me of my boys and their sports teams before the start of their games.
It was clear that City Year and school staff had done a great job of organizing the day. The event staff had carefully stacked pre-cut wood and laid out all the tools and other equipment at our work site. Booklets with step by step instructions, along with the guidance of our project team leader, gave us confidence that the end result would be both functional and stylish . As the day went on, it was fun to see the benches take shape and the growing confidence of all the volunteers. What seemed like a daunting task at first slowly revealed that a lot can be done with many hands working together. By lunch time, our group of 10 volunteers had completed three beautiful benches. I saw other volunteers painting college mascots on the hallway walls. Outside, volunteers planted a row of trees along one side of the building, another group had painted planter boxes and another group had completed building a row of lunch tables.
I found this opportunity personally meaningful in several ways. I loved introducing my family members to the event staff, the like-minded community volunteers, and the great leaders we placed at City Year, highlighting the meaningful work that they do. I also felt this was a perfect example of how Edgility partners with our clients to advance our common mission of serving our communities and helping organizations solve the challenges related to educational inequity.
The event t-shirt logo sums it up for me, “MLK Day of Service: Make it a day on, not a day off.”