Written by Hannah Laub, AmeriCorps Member proudly serving on the Irene W. and C.B. Pennington Foundation Team at Kenilworth Science and Technology School
I arrived in Baton Rouge to begin my time with City Year on July 5. On the same day, Alton Sterling was murdered, igniting protests and outrage throughout the city. Thirty-eight days later, the historic flooding in Southern Louisiana began, destroying homes and leaving thousands of people displaced in shelters. This summer Baton Rouge has been in the national spotlight for multiple tragedies, but these tragedies have demonstrated the immense strength, resilience, and spirit of the Baton Rouge community. Though thousands of homes were damaged and destroyed, countless people were donating relief supplies, volunteering at shelters, or providing a helping hand however they could. Even as a newcomer to this community, I was able to feel its spirit immediately.
No one could predict what would happen in Baton Rouge these past two months, and with these events City Year Baton Rouge has had to adapt to the changing needs of the community. If the flooding had never happened, CYBR would have already been working in schools for over a month. Instead, many corps members spent their first weeks on the job serving in Red Cross shelters or summer camps. Others are working in schools that have alternate locations due to the flooding. Needless to say, there are some parts of our service that we were not expecting.
However, I also never expected to be inspired by my fellow AmeriCorps members each and every day. With every new challenge, I find myself surrounded by people not just willing to help, but eager to do whatever they can make even a small difference. Immediately after the flooding, AmeriCorps members were fervently seeking out volunteer opportunities, and offering assistance to some of our own who were forced to evacuate. AmeriCorps members were working long days at shelters, sleeping on each other’s couches, and checking up on each other every day to make sure everyone was safe. During the weeks following flooding, when some schools were closed and morale was reaching a low, there was always someone that reminded us to keep our heads up despite it all. Because although we can provide only a small amount of help as individuals, as a community City Year and the people of Baton Rouge have demonstrated that real change can and will happen.