March 1, 2016
Reading Partners Baltimore Americorps Members turn MLK Day into a day ON
By: Tiffany James, Development Coordinator
Thirty-One AmeriCorps members and staff from Reading Partners Baltimore united on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to join hundreds of thousands of volunteers participating in service projects across the country on this national day of service to honor MLK’s legacy. The team started the day picking up trash from the streets in the Upton & Heritage Crossing neighborhoods. These neighborhoods were symbolically significant due to their proximity to MLK Boulevard, as well as being the site for two Reading Partners Baltimore schools: Furman L. Templeton Elementary and Historic Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Elementary. “When it comes to trying to show people that you are here and you are part of the community, you want to go out and see what’s going on and where you can give a helping hand,” said Arnetra Burnett, AmeriCorps member serving as site coordinator at Matthew A. Henson Elementary.
With that in mind, cleaning the streets around two schools served by Reading Partners Baltimore provided the team the rare opportunity to impact the neighborhood in ways beyond the normal, day-to-day literacy interventions. The team wrapped up MLK Day by assisting with the completion of a few community mosaic and craft projects at Art with a Heart, a community art organization that provides visual art classes for shelters, community centers, schools, and other groups in need of a creative outlet. Cross-organization collaborations are common when it comes to service days because it reinforces a sense of partnership and unity within the community.
For Reading Partners Baltimore’s AmeriCorps members, service days are about both being an engaged member of the community and reflecting on the current year of service. As a result, organizing service days is a responsibility given to AmeriCorps members that are in the process of completing a second year of service with Reading Partners. As the senior AmeriCorps members, Maria Goodson and Alexis Acciani took the lead in organizing the team’s entire MLK Day of service itinerary. “I feel extremely fortunate because Maria is well-versed in event planning, and she laid the structure allowing me to fill things in,” admits Alexis. “I really enjoyed taking lead on the reflection activity. For me, it had an academic, theoretical component to marry with the very practical work that we do on a daily bases and I find that really intriguing.”
When it comes to reflecting on the significance of serving on MLK Day, Perry McAlister, AmeriCorps member serving at Moravia Park Elementary, states, “The lesson I take from MLK is you don’t have to be special or some chosen one or perfect. You just have to be willing to work to make the world we all dream of — one where more of us can live peacefully and thrive — a reality”
Are you interested in turning the MLK Day of Service into a year dedicated to serving the Baltimore community? Become an AmeriCorps member, and work alongside Reading Partners in a community-wide effort to empower struggling readers toward a better future today!