It was before sunrise when we kicked off our first circle of the day. While the temperature was low as we huddled together for warmth, spirits were high within the circle in anticipation for our big day at Nathan Hale High School.

City Year staff and community volunteers stand on chairs as they paint inspiration quotes in hallways throughout Hale High School. This year marked City Year Tulsa’s fifth annual day of service celebrating the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., with nearly 400 community volunteers and students, AmeriCorps members and City Year staff braving the cold to participate in a “day ON, not a day off,” beautifying Hale High School through various service projects, including painting murals and inspirational quotes throughout the school, building benches and writing notes of encouragement to students.

MLK Day is a day City Year sites across the country look forward to each year because it allows our teams and staff to come together as a whole to share the values of service, unity, justice, opportunity and equality advocated by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and are so foundational for our organization with our students and community.

Through our service, schools become a place where kids want to come to and learn, helping to bridge economic and social divides as well as improving educational opportunities for all students within our community.

Impact Manager, Angela Steele, traces a student design onto one of the panel art boards.Hale High School Impact Manager, Angela Steele, was excited for the opportunity to highlight the school where her team serves. “I think today’s going to be a great day” said Steele. “Our service is going to allow the community to see more of our school building and students in a positive light.”

That sentiment was echoed by Hale High School principal, Dr. Sheila Riley: “We are grateful for the opportunity to improve our school setting and thankful that City Year is helping us to achieve that.” At the closing ceremony she continued to highlight why the need for a positive school environment is so important.

“People talk a lot about how cuts to education affect a school’s ability to teach their students, but they don’t talk as much about how a school’s environment affects children as well,” said Riley. “The work you did today will help build a sense of pride, spirit and community in our school.”

Community students work together to paint one of Hale's school logos in the gym during service.A senior student athlete from Hale High School also spoke at the closing ceremony to express her gratitude for the work we all completed that day to beautify her school as well as the work City Year Tulsa continues to do every day for the students at Hale.

“In all my four years here, no one’s done anything like this,” she remarked as she pointed to the murals of Hale’s school mascots through the years painted on the gym walls. “It makes me proud to be a student here. It’s just awesome.”

The day was full of moments of reflection for both our City Year teams as well as our volunteers and community partners. Examples of servant leadership could be seen high and low as a Cox Communication Vice President laid on the floor drilling benches together and the TYPros executive director stood on a chair to paint inspiration quotes above lockers.

City Year Tulsa's Executive Director, Paul Davis, sweeps the floor as volunteers work in the lobby.Even our Executive Director, Paul Davis, took a broom in hand to keep the floors clean as volunteers worked in the lobby. Earlier in the day he explained why MLK Day of Service is so important to City Year:

“Martin Luther King Jr. Day gives City Year the opportunity to actively reflect on Dr. King’s legacy and our commitment to serving our students and communities. By mobilizing volunteers for a day of service in Dr. King’s honor, together we can create a ripple effect throughout the community, uplifting the students of Nathan Hale High School. This day of service shows students and families that the whole community is invested in their success.”

In total, “crews” worked on 11 different service projects through the school. Some painted welcome signs to be hung in the front hallway of the school while others potted succulents for teacher appreciation gifts.

A community student show's off the potted succulent plants that will be given as teacher appreciation gifts.

College logos were painted on the cafeteria walls to inspire students to continue education after graduation, and the main lobby was transformed with a whole new coat of paint on the walls. On

Several community partners supported City Year Tulsa’s MLK Day of service through event sponsorship and volunteerism, including: Cox Communications, Tulsa Public Schools (TPS), Starbucks, Asemio and Tulsa Young Professionals (TYPros).

Thank you to all our City Year team, AmeriCorps members and staff, Hale High School faculty and staff, community partners, volunteers and students themselves for investing your time, talent and resources in making this year’s MLK Day of service such a success.

You can see more highlights from our day by visiting our Twitter, Instagram and Facebook Event and Group pages.

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