City Year Philadelphia: CYServes

         Above: Photos from the 2016 CY Serves Event at Edison High School

City Year Philadelphia’s CY Serves is an event, which relies on community members and volunteers to dedicate five to six hours of their Saturday to transform a neighborhood school with colors and paintings. Leading up to the event on November 5, 2016, the City Year Civic Engagement team and additional AmeriCorps members prepped Thomas Alva Edison High School (Edison High School) in North Philadelphia for a complete make over, which included painted murals. The goal of the day was to create a positive and motivating environment for students, which encourages them to try their best. Although CY Serves requires only a couple hours of commitment to volunteers, the impact their work has on students, staff, and administration is immeasurable. Below are student reactions to the school's makeover

The quotes or phrases the volunteers painted ranged in subject from college readiness to the meaning of respect from inspirational people, such as Frida Kahlo and Margret Mead (see photographs).  Edison High School also has a large Latino/a population, so City Year also included many Spanish quotes and messages to promote inclusivity within the school. Displaying quotes such as, "Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly empowers" the students at Edison High School and demonstrates to them that there is hope and possibility.  A student reacted to the Kahlo quote by saying “Feet can only take me a certain way; I can soar higher; I know I can." The student continued to say that these murals and quotes “allow the school to have emotion."

Quotes weren’t the only thing being painted; vibrant murals now line the hallways of Edison High School. These murals represent many positive images and symbols and brighten the often plain walls of the school. For instance, one mural is a silhouette of students jumping in the air for joy after graduating from high school. A student said this “makes me happy to think I’ll graduate cause that’s how I am going to be.” Another mural only a couple classrooms down the hallway has a big black hand with many other colored hands inside of it, such as blue, red, and purple. Without prompting, a student told me that, “The more hands we have in the ‘pile’ the more we can accomplish." These murals have a real affect on the students we serve and also allow them to think critically on what messages these paintings have.

“Makes me happy to think I’ll graduate cause that’s how I am going to be."
- Edison Student
"Feet can only take me a certain
way; I can soar higher; I know I can." 
Edison Student

The students of Edison High School were appreciative of the work the volunteers did; additionally, the staff and administration were happy with the work that was complete.  During CY Serves, 9th Grade Academy Assistant Principle Roskos was taking pictures of the paintings and had a smile on his face that was worth a thousand words.  Ms.  Cohen, an English teacher at Edison, was thrilled with the work the volunteers did, adding that, "it looks amazing."

"[These murals] allow the school to have emotion."
- Edison Student

“The more hands we have in the pile, the more we can accomplish.”
Edison Student

Overall, it is projects like this, that make the City Year experience extraordinary. CY Serves is a perfect example of what City Year does in every school: shines a light of positivity and promotes learning to the highest standard possible. At the end of the day, the work we do is for our students and seeing their faces when they walked in on Monday was something I will truly never forget.

From the Edison High School City Year team, students, staff, and administration, we would like to thank the 200+ volunteers for coming out November 5th and we would also like to extend and thanks to the City Year Philadelphia Civic Engagement Team.  Without you, this never would have been possible. 

Written by City Year Philadelphia AmeriCorps Member, Ian Peltier serving at Thomas Edison High School Team. The work of Ian and his team is made possible by Team Sponsor, SAP.

Want to take part in a large scale service day at a local school? Sign up for City Year Philadelphia's MLK Jr. Day of Service on January 16th!

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