Video by Laura Hartung, Corps Member, Virgil Middle School

Post written by Rubi Torres, Corps Member, Virgil Middle School

Photographs by Florie Nufio, Corps Member, 122nd Street Elementary School

On Monday, January 20, 2014, 283 City Year AmeriCorps members and 1,000 local volunteers gathered at Horace Mann Middle School in South Los Angeles to engage in a service project that would result in the external beautification of the school. This day of service honored Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy of integrating communities of diverse backgrounds and the idea that “everybody can be great, because everybody can serve” by bringing together young adults, students, and community members to create a caring and inspiring environment that will allow students to learn and thrive.

During the opening ceremony, several speakers, including State Controller John Chiang, reinforced King’s belief on “using time creatively [to] uplift humanity and serve the function of education,” especially within our underprivileged communities. Principal Gayle of Horace Mann Middle School shared her appreciation to all the volunteers and addressed them as the “answered prayer” that her school was fortunate to finally have. She also stated that she believes that among many other things, art “heals and transforms” any given space.

By the end of the day, over 100 murals were painted, surrounding the whole school with bright colors and designs. The Comcast NBCUniversal Telemundo Civic Engagement team, who planned the entire the day, worked closely with the teachers and administrators to make sure that every mural painted that day served a purpose in the students’ lives, especially in the context of their education.

The school’s hallways were covered with big and bright illustrations that evoked school pride and the motivation to learn every day. One of City Year’s values, Ubuntu, was one among many murals that embodied messages of community and collaboration. Essentially, building on the idea of viewing school as a learning community where students can learn from one another, and ground a support system on the basis of justice, equality and respect. Also, the murals featured the ideas of classic and historic figures, like Mahatma Gandhi, that have made a difference in the world. Mahatma Gandhi mural These murals were painted on the exterior walls of the buildings, meant to be seen by the students as they enter the campus.

Various groups and organizations participated in the day, including, Bruin Corps, Cal State LA, Comerica Bank, Disney, Habitat for Humanity, JPMorgan Chase, Kaiser, LMU, Sony, and Starbucks. Each group not only helped transform the school’s physical appearance, but also gave it a touch of humanity and inspiration. As students return to Horace Mann Middle School, they can feel enlightened by the art surrounding them, that which instills hope and innovation. Whatever route they choose to take to class, the merits of seeking an education will follow.

Since the service day, Principal Gayle has been leading tours of the school to showcase the amazing murals that were created, and is meeting with teachers to talk about how to incorporate the quotes from the murals into lesson plans and reflection activities for the students.

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