Written by Jenn Fleming, AmeriCorps member proudly serving at Democracy Prep.

Projects: 10

Volunteers: approx 235

How do we feel: FIRED UP!


The morning is far colder than expected, which causes a little anxiety for gardening specifically, but it’s a clear crisp day that warms up considerably as it goes on. By the end, there is a general agreement that it was actually pretty perfect for a mid-January day; lucky, in fact, considering it is followed by two days with hard freeze warnings and school cancellations.

As Project Leaders, we arrive at the service site, Melrose Elementary, an hour early. A slight hiccup with a locked gate aside, everyone arrives happy and ready to serve. We have our assignments already - I along with a co-leader have been given garden boxes, which feels pleasantly metaphorical on a day meant to celebrate working together for legacies that you can’t always see immediately.

I’m not going to lie, the garden boxes need some major ‘tlc,’ but, another stroke of luck, none of them need to be rebuilt in full. We have a nice mix of external and City Year volunteers, so we divide them up into two groups (there were around thirty at this particular project). The entire morning is spent companionably, with, I must say, our external volunteers - representatives from NSN Louisiana - doing a particularly impressive job with painting the garden stones. There is an efficient organization to everything, people moving from one step in the process to the next with a can-do attitude. I credit my co-lead with this; always making sure we all knew what needed to be done a few steps in advance.

The end result is eight beautiful garden boxes, surrounded by fifty or so green and yellow garden stones. With the cucumbers, summer squash, peppers, and watermelon planted, we even have time to paint the benches that run along the garden area. Looking back at our area as we head to lunch, I know we have done our job well, leaving no figurative or literal stone unturned.

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