By Kylie Pratt, senior AmeriCorps member and Service Leader serving on the Foundation to Be Named Later Boston Civic Engagement Team

Rarely are you able to gather 20 teenagers in a room and give them an opportunity to decide the future of their school. However, the Boston Civic Engagement team did just that with Irving Middle School students at a visioning session in early April. A visioning session is a way for our team to gather ideas and input from members of the school community about the types of physical service projects they would most benefit from. Through this session, we were able to hear directly from students about their vision for Deloitte Impact Day, a service event to take place at Irving Middle School on June 5.

To gain a better sense of the Irving community and get the creative energies flowing, we started with a mind map. Students were prompted with the question, “When you think of your school, what comes to mind?” They were encouraged to take turns shouting out their thoughts, building off comments from their peers. We heard about the arts, sports and academics at the Irving, the W.A.R.R.I.O.R values, and the students’ connectedness to the Roslindale community.

After the mind map, we asked students to take a few minutes to write about someone who inspires them and share with a person nearby. Many of the murals our team  designs include quotes from inspirational leaders, and it’s important that those quotes come from people whom the students look up to, whether they be President Obama or Malala Yousafzai. Since murals are a large part of most City Year service days, our next activity was a mural gallery walk. We posted five examples of murals around the room and allowed students to post sticky notes sharing what they liked or disliked about each design, so we know how to create murals that excite and connect with the students who see them every day.

Finally, knowing that Deloitte Impact Day will largely focus on exterior spaces, we brainstormed potential exterior projects. Students raised hands eagerly to share their ideas. Some students suggested building benches, adding trash bins, or planting flowers. They also expressed a need for playground graphics to match the sports they play, including basketball and track. Other students focused on paint colors they would like to see used.

At this point, a young scholar raised his hand and said, “I want them to use purple.” Elizabeth Stein, the Deloitte team’s Program Manager, later told us this was the first time this student had spoken up in the We Are the Change (WATC) Extended Day Program all year. Together, at City Year, we believe in empowering young people to create positive change in their communities. Hearing this young man share his vision proved that one of the best ways to empower students is to simply give them an opportunity to use their voice. We were fortunate to be able to hear from so many unique voices during our visioning session and I’m looking forward to seeing all of these visions come together to create something incredible on Deloitte Impact Day!

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