Sunny Miami! I met with five of my teammates at the Miami airport waiting to be picked up by Senior Project Manager Sam Sadlier. That’s how I thought our trip would begin but Mother Nature had other plans. The travel day to Miami was filled with flight cancelations, delays, and weather alerts. “Be like water” a core City Year piece of idealism that stressed flexibility echoed in my head as the day was full of changes. As fate would have it, I was the only person to arrive in Miami on time. I landed and found my shuttle after searching through two floors of pick up locations and placing three calls to the service desk at the Holiday Inn Express. After ten hours of traveling I sat on my bed and waited for further updates on the next day’s plan.
Luckily, teammates Fabiola Meza and Jenna Kim arrived around 2:00 am and were able to come with me the next morning to Kelsey L. Pharr Elementary School, our event site. With no manager, little sleep and coffee in hand, the three of us set out to begin a day of prep. Fabiola picked up the van and ran errands as Jenna and I arrived to meet with school personnel and get set up with mural sketching. We were all ready to go and then, again, Mother Nature decided to play a few jokes on us. As we began sketching in the garden we were greeted by lizards, centipedes, and mosquitoes. It was like a mini jungle back there, complete with the intense Florida sun. Jenna and I turned on the projector, picked up our pencils, and looked at the wall. Mother Nature was shining so bright that we could not see the mural.
We had to hurry to trace whenever a cloud passed over. As things started to ramp up, I had the opportunity to step in a role that I love. Coordinating the delivery of Care Force 1, our container of materials and event supplies. During this time I was able to connect with the Principal. Principal C was gracious in answering our questions and explaining her vision. The rest of the team including Sam our manager arrived that evening and the rest of the prep week went smoothly.
My project was a mural that was to be painted on the front of the school, but when we began to prep the wall we ran into a few setbacks. The wall had a very aggressive texture that was not conducive to painting or sketching. Sam decided to put the mural on panels, and mount them on the wall with a border to protect them from the weather. Seems simple, right? Wrong. As we started to hammer drill the pilot holes in the wall the bit broke. Luckily, we had a spare. We started to hang the murals and then realized that the placement was off. We had to take down the panels that were hung and then start again. We were finally on our way with mounting the murals when the wall threw one last wrench at us. The wall was full of dead spots and the screws were not holding. Some corners had to be drilled five times to secure a strong hold. Nine panels, and a little heat exhaustion later, and it was done.
Team Care Force members Albertine Samson and Ja'Lon Eason trace a mural on plywood.
Mother Nature gave us a scare on event day with light rain forecast, but she was nice enough to give us lovely weather for our outdoor projects. Fabiola and a volunteer assisted in pouring paint for my volunteer team of 25+ AT&T employees and six 5th grade students. With three shades of four different colors and a complex, detailed mural, painting the correct color in the correct place was at times confusing. I am so grateful that Fabiola was available to help distribute paint and supplies. As the project got underway, my volunteers were happy and joyful, and my student volunteers were excited to see their school coming to life.
AT&T volunteers and students from the school paint the plywood mural.
This event reminded me that I love operations and logistics work. Even with the few coordination and partner development tasks that I was able to complete without a manager present, I felt comfortable and knowledgeable about the overall event. This was reassuring as I had been recently notified that I was moving to the final round of my application process for a regional operations and logistics position in a nonprofit organization. This event was even more special for me because I had the joy of working with students of the school. They brought energy and brightness to my event day team and their spirit was reflected in the beautiful mural that was painted in the front of Pharr Elementary School.
-Written by: Ja’Lon Eason, Senior AmeriCorps Member, Care Force '19