By: Quamid Francis
On Monday, January 16th, on what would have been the 94th birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we pause to reflect on his incredible life and legacy. A man who dedicated himself to the pursuit of justice and equality, Dr. King’s leadership and activism undoubtedly helped shape the world we live in today.
Dr. King’s impact wasn’t just limited to the Civil Rights Movement. Throughout his life, he was a tireless advocate for national service and recognized the transformative power it has to bring people from all walks of life together and work towards a common goal.
As the Executive Director of City Year New York, I get to witness first-hand how Dr. King’s legacy lives on through national service-based organizations like ours. City Year brings diverse teams of young people who serve as AmeriCorps members, united by a shared commitment to service, purpose, and possibility.
AmeriCorps members are student success coaches in New York City public schools, predominately in under-resourced communities where schools and students benefit most from extra resources. City Year’s Whole School, Whole Child model provides holistic support to students, including one-to-one tutoring, literacy and math assistance, social and emotional development support, and after-school programming daily. Service is the core of our work, and the spaces our students are learning in are a priority to our organization.
For City Year, MLK Day is not just a day off; it’s a day of national service that is crucial in honoring Dr. King’s legacy and giving back to our communities. This MLK Day, we will return in person to honor Dr. King’s legacy by pouring into a partner community school in the South Bronx. This day of service will bring together hundreds of volunteers from corporations, including Starbucks, Santander Bank, Comcast NBCUniversal, plus many more who share the joy of service. Together with AmeriCorps members and City Year staff, they will join forces to transform and beautify school grounds with inspiring artwork while building community. As students return to their classrooms, they will be reminded that there is a community behind them invested in their growth and well-being.
National service is about more than just improving educational outcomes. It’s about creating a more inclusive and equitable society. By bringing people from different backgrounds together to work towards a common goal, national service can help break down barriers and foster a greater sense of understanding and empathy, like our annual MLK day event.
As we honor Dr. King’s legacy, we must remember the importance of national service and how it can help us achieve his dream of a more just and equal society. We must also recognize that there is more that unites us than divides us, and through service, we can come together to create a better, more equitable future for all.
Let us all take a page from Dr. King’s book and commit to serving our communities. Whether it’s through organizations like City Year or individual efforts, let’s all do our part to make Dr. King’s dream a reality.
Quamid Francis (@q_impact) is the Senior Vice President and Executive Director for City Year New York and is a veteran of the war in Afghanistan and spent eight years in the U.S. Marine Corps.