LAYC’s AmeriCorps program provides an opportunity for young adults who are considering a career in youth development or social service to gain experience in a real-world setting and develop useful skills. In DC, LAYC AmeriCorps members serve at Powell Elementary School, Bancroft Elementary School Takoma Education Campus, and LAYC’s Teen Center. Members provide students with in-school support such as help with homework, life skills workshops, and enrichment activities. Members also host numerous events to foster relationships among LAYC staff, youth, and parents including parent orientations, field trips, and special events.

Last month, LAYC AmeriCorps members hosted over 60 participants at Rita Bright Family and Youth Center in DC, to commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. AmeriCorps members kicked off the event with a panel discussion. Roland Roebuck, from the US Virgin Islands, and Belinda Shepherd, from Michigan, shared their stories of living through the civil rights movement, before and after Dr. King’s assassination. These guest speakers told eye-opening stories about their personal experiences and involvement in protests and social organizing, shared their thoughts on civil rights and race, the impact of legislation enacted in the 1960s, and history’s connection to today’s civil rights climate. AmeriCorps members also participated in a social justice discussion (pictured) that touched on racism, prejudice, bias, and equity. The discussion and reflection were extremely valuable, in that they encouraged youth of diverse backgrounds to share and discuss their own experiences.

For many event participants, listening to the panel speakers was the first time they had ever heard about the Black experience in the civil rights era as told by Black citizens who did not live in the southern US. Discussions also provided an opportunity for AmeriCorps members to reflect on the impact of Dr. King’s legacy on their own public service:

AmeriCorps member reflections:

“I learned more about my history…I learned more about my Blackness. But, most importantly, I learned how grateful I am because [Dr. King’s] activism is a part of me now, and that is a legacy that will never be erased.” – Zimar Batista.

“The [guest speaker] stories truly emphasized how relevant this history is today, and the need for us all to take an active role in the process of moving toward true equality.” – Kelley Waidley
“Dr. King’s legacy impacts my commitment to service because I try to make all of our students, regardless of background, race, nationality, etc., feel appreciated, heard, and safe in LAYC’s afterschool program.”  – Jean Pierre Montañez

“Service means bringing the community together despite where you are from, your race, your sexuality or your ethic background. We are all equal – we are family and we are all in this together.” – Zimar Batista

The individual reflections of AmeriCorps members demonstrate the importance of an event like this in inspiring and motivating individuals in their continued service to youth and their community. We are so grateful to everyone who came together to realize an inspirational and impactful event, especially our guest speakers Roland Roebuck and Belinda Shepherd.

LAYC’s 2019 MLK events were made possible by the DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education, Serve DC, DC Department of Parks and Recreation, and the DC Mayor’s Office onLatino Affairs, MD Governor’s Office on Service and Volunteerism, and United Way of the National Capital Area.

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