On January 18th, 2016, City Year Chicago AmeriCorps members, community/corporate partners, alumni, and students will come together for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s National Day of Service. It is our largest service event of the year, and we wanted to hear from members of our Civic Engagement Team on the planning process and what exactly goes into planning an event (and physical service) for 1,000 volunteers. We sat down with Marc and Tyiesha, who are responsible for the Outreach and Personnel of the event.
How long have you both been working on MLK Day?
“So, MLK Day has been talked about since we first started our Senior Corps year! We’ve been preparing for this day since our year started. As we get closer to event-day, Punit (The CE Team Leader) and Sam (the CE Staff Manager) strategically pick the roles for the CE Team. So Marc and I were selected for Outreach & Personnel, and Rachel and Nick were selected for Resource & Design. Since we served last year, we all knew that MLK Day would bring in about 1,000 volunteers, so the member selected for Outreach had to get going immediately to start recruiting volunteers.”
What has been the CE Team's approach to this year's MLK Day?
“Going into this event, we had to be really strategic. Sam and Punit had to pick a school, or two, that was large enough for our event. So this year we’re going to be at Kelly High School and Brighton Park Elementary. We have to make sure there’s enough space, because for the past few years, we’ve been getting over 1,000 volunteers for MLK Day, and some people are even placed on a waiting list. So we all had to be very strategic to make sure that we have enough projects for that day, and that everything is planned so that the event runs smoothly.”
Can you talk a little bit more about the 'Personnel' part of your role? What responsibilities are attached to that?
Another thing we're doing in preparation for MLK Day is we plan all the Prep Days*. So we have to plan Prep Days for Service Reserves**, for when just the CE Team goes to prep, and for when the whole corps comes out [the Friday before MLK Day]. So now Marc and I are getting the project design proposals from the Design Coordinators, so we’re looking at those and seeing what prep can be done and completed before the whole corps gets there.
On top of all that, we’re coordinating a Beloved Community space, too, which will give organizations in the Brighton Park community a chance to provide information about their mission to the volunteers and provide opportunities them more connected to the community and the schools.
How are students being engaged to volunteer?
“I feel like this year we’re going to have a lot of student volunteers from all the different Chicago organizations and programs, like College Possible and One Million Degrees.”
“We’ve been doing a lot of events this year, but they’ve mainly focused on adult volunteers. This is our first event where we’re going to have a lot of students come out. Some of my students from last year will be there, and I am so excited!
Why is it so important to have students come out and volunteer?
“For me, it’ll tie me back to the initial reason of why I came to City Year. They’ll be able to see the transformation that all of the volunteers will have on both of these schools. They can also hear from students from those schools at the end of the day to hear what it meant to them to have so many people come out to help.”
For me, it’s being able to show some students a different area of their city. Some students don’t get many opportunities to leave their neighborhood and see another community. Also, I think it’s really important for them to see how schools differ, because some of them may come from schools that may not have opportunities to host so many volunteers and have all of these projects done, so they’ll get a chance to see us all transform a school together. I’m really excited for that.”
* Service Reserves is an opportunity for corps members serving in schools to prepare and complete physical service projects in Chicago Public Schools as well as have the opportunity to lead volunteer groups as a part of our events.
** Prep Days are days leading up to the service event in which the CE Team and Service Reserves prepare the projects so that, when volunteers arrive, they can immediately get to work without having to wait for materials. Prep Days include; sketching outlines for murals, measuring/cutting wood for construction projects, and gathering all the necessary equipment and supplies for the service day.