Caitlyn Silvas_headshot

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Everybody can be great because anybody can serve.”

City Year San Antonio (CYSA) a local education non-profit wholly focused on improving San Antonio’s dropout rate, took a break from routine in-school service to host more than 300 volunteers in community service projects to celebrate “A Day On, Not a Day Off” in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The service event took place on Saturday, Jan. 18 to celebrate Dr. King’s legacy and to prepare for the Monday MLK March.

Our Lady of the Lake University students build benches for the community at the Adult Day Care Center. Photo by Karl Brooks.
Our Lady of the Lake University students build benches for the community at the Adult Day Care Center. Photo by Karl Brooks.

Volunteers united from across Bexar County and reached as far as Harris County, with 65 individuals who traveled from Yes Prep Academy and Cristo Rey Jesuit College Preparatory of Houston. These high school students were supported by City Year alumni from the Houston area who wanted to promote a culture of service and introduce young people to service beyond their everyday community.

On Saturday, City Year San Antonio and community volunteers worked adamantly to complete 21 different projects, which included a civil rights memorial at the Civil Rights Botanical Garden on MLK Drive, and painting outdoor activity areas for the students of Martin Luther King Academy. Youth volunteers joined Corps Members at the Kid Zone where they created chalk designs along the sidewalks at MLK Park and created posters for CYSA to display at the MLK March. Additionally, CYSA joined the Youth Empowerment Summit, San Antonio Parks & Recreation, and Habitat for Humanity to lend a helping hand to the extended San Antonio community.

City Year Corps Members create a world map for the students at Martin Luther King Academy. Photo by Sasha Boudreaux.
City Year Corps Members create a world map for the students at Martin Luther King Academy. Photo by Sasha Boudreaux.

The 21 projects which span the 2.75 miles of San Antonio’s MLK March were organized by a team of 22 of the 111 young AmeriCorps Members that chose to take additional leadership opportunities by planning the service day. These 17-24 year olds come from diverse backgrounds from all across the country for the purpose of creating a lasting impact in the San Antonio community. Each day these individuals serve as one-on-one tutors and provide after school learning opportunities for students in third through ninth grades. And this past week they continued those efforts of creating a lasting impact on the Eastside of San Antonio in hopes of continuing Dr. King’s dream in the community.

In partnership with the Wheatley Heights Sports Complex, a space that is special to the Eastside because many students participate in community league games played at the sports complex, volunteers transformed open areas into six soccer fields for youth and adult teams. Additionally, volunteers built 12 benches for teams to use while participating in various sport activities.

As part of Bexar County’s Community Venues Program, the Wheatley Heights Sports Complex has plans on being a multi-sport facility that includes: a football stadium, a nine–lane, all-weather track, soccer fields, and a cross country track. This premier complex located in Precinct 4 will help revitalize the community and supports a community of champions for local students and community members.

Paul Garro, City Year San Antonio Executive, and Congressman Pete Gallego inspire volunteers before the CYSA MLK Day of Service. Photo by Estefania Reichard Figueroa.
Paul Garro, City Year San Antonio Executive, and Congressman Pete Gallego inspire volunteers before the CYSA MLK Day of Service. Photo by Estefania Reichard Figueroa.

Along the route of the March on MLK Drive, volunteers painted an 80 ft. mural at the Carmelite Learning Center and planted 40 trees along the community trail at the Dominion Church of God in Christ. Projects were visible to the hundreds of thousands of March participants on Monday, and contributed to the collaborative atmosphere of the day of service.

The mural at the Carmelite Learning Center highlighted downtown San Antonio, the missions of San Antonio, the Carmelite sisters, and a diverse group of children to represent those served at the learning center. The Carmelite sisters promote a spiritual lifestyle while serving elderly, youth, and children. The Carmelie Learning Center provides year-round enrichment activities for youth ages 18 months to six years.

This year was the second year that CYSA worked to improve the community area at the Dominion Church of God in Christ. CYSA alumni were able to give their day of service and expand on the project that they began one year ago. The community trail was improved with the new shrubbery and mulch, landscaping, and new benches to invite more individuals to enjoy an open, safe community space on the Eastside.

Extended projects included working with San Antonio Parks & Recreation and Habitat for Humanity of San Antonio. San Antonio Parks & Recreation organized projects that hosted more than 100 volunteers at Martin Luther King Park. Projects included repairs to pavilions and park fixtures, and a general clean-up of the area. This park provides a space for students and families to enjoy their community and participate in outdoor activities after school.

Additionally, Corps Members and volunteers assisted with the building of two Habitat for Humanity homes at their newest neighborhood location on the southwest side of San Antonio. Volunteers alongside Habitat for Humanity families placed the first pieces of the side walls and roof of the homes. These homes will provide an affordable housing option for families in San Antonio who will now have the opportunity to be first time homeowners and help build the community for future generations.

Throughout the weekend, City Year Corps Members and staff were able to connect with individuals from across San Antonio and share their mission of demonstrating the power and idealism of young people, engaging citizens to benefit the common good, and developing young leaders of the next generation.

Following the Saturday service day, CYSA joined the largest MLK March in the country where they united with an estimated 175,000 individuals. The MLK March was an inspiring opportunity to come together and promote social justice for all. Corps Members marched alongside teachers, students, and families in support of the great dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

City Year San Antonio unites young individuals to serve as role models to youth in the community and impact the growth of the community for future generations. Through continued leadership and service opportunities, CYSA fosters the development of young leaders who will go on to influence others around them. By working together and serving a “day on” instead of taking a “day off,” Corp Members have created an empowering culture for each other and for the students that they serve. This culture contributes to the growth and revitalization of San Antonio by supporting young leaders who will unite the diverse community of this great city.

City Year San Antonio is always welcoming new volunteers – so next year, will you take a day off or a day on?

Caitlyn Silvas serves as a full-time AmeriCorps Member with City Year San Antonio, an education nonprofit that serves high-need, low-income students who are at risk of academic failure. You can follow her on Twitter at @CaitlynSilvas.

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