Adding Light, Color, and Love to Sheepshead Bay High School: MLK Day 2013

City Year New York engaged over 700 volunteers, alumni, corporate sponsors, students, corps members and staff in a powerful day of service last Monday for MLK Day 2013 at Sheepshead Bay High School in Brooklyn.

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Corps Member Robin Krosinsky, who serves at PS 154 in the South Bronx and was a member of the Media Team day of, shared her MLK Day experience:

On the morning of Martin Luther King Day, I arrived at Sheepshead Bay High School feeling a bit sleepy and blurry-eyed, but ready for a powerful day of service.The cafeteria was set up for mural painting and bench building. The auditorium would be beautified with new murals lining the walls. The gyms were also filled with canvases awaiting paint and wood waiting to be assembled into new benches and flower boxes. In other rooms around the schools, teacher appreciation packages would be assembled, blankets would be made, and donations would be organized for Hurricane Sandy victims. The second and third floors both had hallways that would be painted with intricate and beautiful murals of inspirational figures.

The opening ceremony was loud and proud with City Year spirit, and included a performance by the Bombay Steppaz (the award-winning step team from Sheepshead Bay High School), a speech from City Year New York’s Executive Director Erica Hamilton, and powerful “Why I Serve” statements from four corps members. After the warm welcome to MLK Day, the corps members and volunteers dispersed to begin their service projects.

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I walked up to two City Year alumni who were working together to paint a mural. When asked why they returned for the service day, one alum said, “I wanted to come back to help out because I wasn’t able to help out during any of the post Sandy clean up because of school. And it’s great to come back and be with City Year, I feel like I’m still a part of it.” One of my favorites was in the library, where students, volunteers, and City Year members were all painting replicas of book covers to decorate the walls of the library. I walked past students who were painting the covers to George Orwell’s 1984 and Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. It was wonderful to see children having fun and helping a cause related to literature. All of the projects in the school were unbelievable and the work put into them was dedicated and inspiring. Dozens of beautiful murals were painted, benches and flower boxes were crafted, and the school and its teachers, students, and faculty were given a big boost in morale. City Year, the students from the school and surrounding schools, and all the volunteers worked together at Sheepshead Bay High School to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wonderful legacy of service to a cause greater than self. 

Corps Member Matthew Bedrick, who serves on the ninth grade Microsoft team at Newtown High School in Elmhurst, Queens and was a member of the Media Team day of, had the opportunity to speak with those serving on MLK Day:

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Many participants were excited about the number of Red Jackets working together in one building, which showed the unity of the Corps. “I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to be in a school outside of Queens and experience serving with the greater City Year community,” remarked Will Veitch, a corps member at IS 204 in Long Island City, Queens. But MLK Day participants were even more impressed by the turnout of the Sheepshead Bay community and the collaboration between these volunteers and the Corps. Hundreds of Sheepshead Bay High School students, faculty, staff, families, and other Brooklyn residents who all decided to make their “day off” a “day on.” John Hughes, Managing Director of Program and Service with City Year New York, was very moved: “You knew City Year was going to turn out, but I’m trilled with all of the students and other members of the community who are here today.” Rob Mowring, School Partnership Director for the schools we serve in Brooklyn, agreed with Hughes and elaborated on the student participation. “There were 160 students who signed up, which shows the level of investment that they have in their school and community. Their excitement to serve is really the highlight for me.” Aja Flewelen, a corps member at IS 126 in Long Island City, Queens, appreciated the teamwork, “It’s great to see the students, families, and corps members come together to serve together.”

_DSC41422The 700+ volunteers who participated in MLK Day also included college groups – from Columbia, New York University, Berkeley College, and Sigma Iota Alpha fraternity  and community groups – from Generation On and Counseling in Schools. City Year would like to thank our MLK Day Title Sponsor, Skadden LLP, our Civic Leadership Sponsor, T-Mobile, our Community Sponsor, Enterprise, our Snack Sponsors, Frito-Lay and Trader Joe’s, our National Leadership Sponsor, Deloitte, our Sheepshead Bay Team Sponsor, National Grid and our Opening Program spokesperson, Jim Madej, Senior Vice President of Customer Energy Solutions at National Grid. I am extremely grateful for all of these participants because they embodied Dr. King’s definition of greatness: “Everybody can be great because everybody can serve.” Despite all of our different backgrounds and identities, we were all connected by a desire to make a difference in our community.

Check out a few great moments from the day below!

Be sure to check out our Flickr page for even more great pictures from MLK Day 2013!ENV_1686

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