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AT&T Impact Day (Trenton, NJ) 2019

AT&T #attimpact Day Chronicle (Trenton, NJ) 2019

Following our event in Miami, we had a few days in the office before embarking on our final AT&T event of the year in Trenton, New Jersey. Logistically, it made more sense to drive down to New Jersey and bring supplies, so six members of TCF and our Program Manager, Molly Stuber, obtained two stow-and-go minivans (a Care Force classic) and headed south on 95. The drive to New Jersey was nice – we cut through the Bronx on the way, where our teammate Chaim Romanoff had spent a significant proportion of his life. Following what I can accurately report as an eternity of Phish and Grateful Dead songs, we arrived at the hotel.

The next morning, we were off to Rivera Community Middle School. Rivera is a very old building, dating to 1923, with weathered brick, windows, and stone carving characteristic of its time. The majority of our service focused on Mercer Street Friends, the social services organization embedded in Rivera that is responsible for its “community” designation. The services that Mercer Street provides are available to both students and the community at large, and many of the projects were designed for their benefit.

Under the leadership of our Senior Partnerships Manager, Hugh Harlow, prep ran smoothly. Hugh is always organized, effective, and prepared; this event was no exception. The weather was beautiful, and I was lucky to spend most of prep measuring, marking, cutting, and pre-staining wood for our array of construction projects. My colleague, friend, and roommate Mark Johnson and I had a nice time working the chop saw and enjoying the dappled sunlight provided by Rivera’s verdant surroundings – contrary to my expectations, New Jersey is called the Garden State for good reason!

On event day, I had the opportunity to co–lead a project with my teammate Ja’Lon Eason. Our group of volunteers was responsible for a variety of landscaping tasks and painting an interior welcome mural; they absolutely killed it. I was lucky to have a few volunteers step up and handle the installation of a new bordered mulching bed, which was a pretty tricky project. Since we worked so efficiently, we were even able to mulch some areas that were not within the original scope of the project.

AT&T volunteers in blue shirts construct garden beds and benches in front of the Rivera Community Middle School entrance on a cloudy day.
AT&T volunteers serve in front of Rivera Community Middle School constructing garden beds and benches.

I arrived at our closing ceremony tired, sweaty, and very happy with the day’s accomplishments. Resting off to the side, I nearly missed my name being called by a group of unfamiliar people who’d taken the mic. I was utterly surprised to see that they were representatives of Taco Bell, another City Year partner, who’d arrived to award me a twenty-five-thousand-dollar Live Más scholarship! I’d applied a month or so ago but hadn’t been expecting to hear back for another two weeks, so I was taken totally off-guard. In a daze, I walked to the front, shook some hands, was presented with a giant check, and stood facing the hundred or so applauding volunteers who’d watched the whole thing go down. It really was an indescribable feeling. Highlighting my physical service was a key aspect of my application, and I’m incredibly grateful to Care Force for helping me tell my story. I’ll be using the money next year to attend college back home in Oregon. The best part of the day was honestly the reactions of my volunteers. I think some of them were more excited than I was!

Senior AmeriCorps Member Clark Shimeall stands holding a large check in his iconic red jacket next to a Taco Bell representative after receiving the Taco Bell Live Más Scholarship.
Senior AmeriCorps Member Clark Shimeall is fired up after receiving the Taco Bell Live Más scholarship during the closing ceremony.

On our way back to Boston we made a pitstop in Connecticut to get some Hugh Harlow-endorsed pizza (Frank Pepe’s), which made for a comfortable drive back to Boston. Once we arrived back at HQ, we unloaded the van, which now included an oversized check, eager to relax before the next event. This event was one of my absolute favorites even prior to having my college education paid for, so naturally, it’s got a place in my personal pantheon. Feeling deeply appreciative.

Originally published 12/3/2019

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