Serving with excellence

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, everyday this week a City Year San José/Silicon Valley staff or Corps Member will share how the words and actions of Martin Luther King, Jr. has impacted their life. Today, Staff Member Stephanie Kim discusses how physical service fits into City Year’s service model and how it relates to a quotation said by Dr. King.

All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.

–Martin Luther King, Jr.

Attendance. Behavior. Course Performance.

The overall objective of City Year’s core program, Whole School, Whole Child is to improve these proven early warning indicators of students dropping out of school.

But where does physical service fit in to City Year’s laser-like focus on education?

Senior Corps Member Liz June paints the USC logo with student volunteers and a parent at Lee Mathson Middle School. The service day was sponsored by Team Sponsor Applied Materials.

This seemingly innocent question began to keep me up at night as I agonized over finding the answer to how physical service fits in with City Year’s education focus. After mulling over the question for longer than I’d like to admit, I realized that physical service directly relates to City Year’s efforts to keep students in school and on track to graduate from high school on time.

The Whole School, Whole Child Program focuses on improving the ABC’s of the high school dropout crisis: Attendance, Behavior and Course Performance.

City Year intervenes by providing three integrated service elements proven to positively affect the ABC’s: academic support, a positive school climate and after-school programming.

Physical service enables us to create a positive school climate in high-need schools. We renovate schools, paint murals, plant gardens, create play spaces and refurbish community centers; we transform schools and communities. Through physical service, we breathe life back into drab school campuses and create a positive school climate conducive to learning and achievement.

At my first City Year service day, we painted 32 college logos on Lee Mathson Middle School’s volleyball and basketball courts. Students came bounding onto the blacktop exclaiming, “I’m going to go there!” as they pointed to different logos. The excitement and determination in the students’ reactions made it evident that we are creating a college going culture for students who grow up thinking that college is not a realistic option for them.

Through physical service, we are showing our students that college is a reality for them, moreover an expectation.

Regardless of if we are tutoring in a classroom or building planter boxes, the students are the reason we serve. If I can contribute to beautifying a school campus and getting kids excited to go to school by mulching all day, I will undertake that job with painstaking excellence, for our students.

Thousands of volunteers will join City Year’s 1,750 corps members and staff at 20 City Year sites across the nation to serve their communities on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. At City Year, Dr. King’s birthday is a “day ON, not a day off.”

Join us on Monday, January 17th, 2011 as we create a positive school climate at Daniel Lairon Elementary School to honor the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his dream of the “beloved community.”

Stephanie Kim, Development Associate CYSJ

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