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The power of community

One of City Year’s main ideologies is Ubuntu. A term derived from the Zulu language of South Africa meaning, “I am a person through other people; my humanity is tied to yours.” Never is this concept more evident than our service days. Our most recent service day was this past weekend—April 15-16—where AmeriCorps members joined the rest of the world in Global Youth Service Day (GYSD).

Before City Year I had experience with GYSD due to my home communities of East Lansing, Michigan and Michigan State University uniting on this day to better our greater Lansing area. Similar to home, our mission this year is to better the communities we serve here in San José. Our 13 school teams all worked incredibly hard to create service events in which we all participated. I joined two different school teams, Donald J. Meyer Elementary and Aptitud Community Academy at Goss, in beautifying their campuses.

At Meyer, we focused on appreciating the teachers that go above and beyond for students. We painted their doors with chalkboard paint to enhance their learning environment, and gave them succulent appreciations. Chalkboard paint is also one of the newest and hottest topics on social websites, thus making us feel more connected to the trendy world. Our students’ safety is also a definite priority for us so we created a clear outdoor space where classrooms can line up during fire drills and emergencies.

Aptitud held their service day on Saturday, which allowed more community members and AmeriCorps members to join. Of course it was difficult waking up at 7:30 a.m. on a Saturday. However, we were able to have over 200 members join in working together to build a garden, murals, benches and a kick wall for our students. It was easy at first to be excited about the event due to the team members’ enthusiastic attitudes, touching testimonials and limitless amount of coffee. However, as the day passed on, the scorching sun and endless amounts of paint fumes were getting to us. It was at that moment when the playlist hit songs like “Work This Out” from High School Musical and we were reminded how crucial teamwork is to getting things done. The lyrics read as, “We’re a champion team, a well-oiled machine, and we’ve faced tougher problems than this. I know it’s a grind, but I’m sure we can find a way to have fun while we get this job done.” It’s definitely safe to say, never has a collective group—of all ages—felt more connected to High School Musical. The playlist and our own attitudes gave us a reminder to finish the day strong and make an impact at Aptitud.

At both schools, the students saw us working hard to make their campus beautiful. I overheard comments made from students at how shocked they were that we are doing all of this for them. I think that’s one of the most beautiful parts of working for City Year. Our days had their challenges, however, like always we work together and work hard to make a better learning and playing environment for the students we serve. By the end of the weekend, we surely Made-Better-Happen.

As a shameless plug, I need to mention William C. Overfelt High School is hosting our own Global Youth Service in May because youth service is not limited to this one weekend. Please keep your eyes and hears open for our Women Empowerment Event here at Overfelt in the first week of May.

In Service,
Sahar Mahmood

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