Yesenia Varela standing with Rafa Sampang

By Yesenia Varela
AmeriCorps member, proudly serving on the L.A. Clippers Team at 93rd Street Elementary School in Watts

As I walked through the halls of Fremont High School in South L.A. this past MLK Day, a few words came to mind: community, unity, compassion, energy, hope, and love.

“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve,” these are words made famous by the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., and at City Year we put those words into action.

On Monday, Jan. 15, City Year AmeriCorps members and alumni, Disney VoluntEARS, Los Angeles Unified leaders, students and community members served together at Fremont High School to honor and celebrate Dr. King’s legacy.

All day the campus was filled with music, chatter, and laughter as hallways filled with people from diverse backgrounds working side by side to give the school a splash of color and inspiration. Outside, in the school gardens maintained by the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust, kids and volunteers painted garden beds and cleaned up the garden.

Together we painted 100 college logos, beautified two gardens, and completed 20 murals of powerful leaders with inspirational quotes.

I had the pleasure of capturing the spirit of some of our community leaders and members who took a day “on” for service. Below are a few of their reflections from the day.

“I’m honored to be here as the new principal [of Fremont High School]. It’s a great opportunity for our community to come together and continue to beautify the campus, continue to work for Fremont. We are the heart and soul of South Central.”

“Days like today help demonstrate the importance of AmeriCorps to the children of our community and communities across the country. It highlights the value of helping our fellow neighbor and it reminds us that more than ever, we must continue to work together to protect AmeriCorps and the funding that makes it possible for its members to provide the services that give our children and our communities hope for a better future.”

“I love seeing not just all of City Year—it’s all of City Year and so much of the community. People brought their friends, their families, their kids. There are little babies walking around with the Disney volunteers. We’re all coming together to do something good and fun. We’re out here painting the school. I would love to be here to see the kids’ faces when they come back to a transformed school. That’s the most exciting part, all of us coming together to do something for these kids. Their school is going to look completely different.”

“Service has been around for a very, very long time. Martin Luther King made it a really meaningful way to help solve some of our nation’s greatest problems and to be able to honor him and his legacy by serving brings a lot of joy to my heart.”

“I'm most excited to gain connections to other people, other City Years. I always like these events where I get to meet other AmeriCorps members from outside my pueblo (area where I serve) and people from the community coming out to support. I’m on the Disney team and it’s great that we have a lot of Disney volunteers here today.”

To view more photos from the day, click here.


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For more national service inspiration, please check out:

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