Written by Ashley Dunbar, City Year Baton Rouge Alumna and Senior AmeriCorps Member serving on the Civic Engagement Team at City Year Philadelphia

While serving with City Year Baton Rouge, my fourth grade classroom at Winbourne Elementary changed my life. So much so that I decided to come back to City Year to serve another year, but this time, on the Philadelphia Civic Engagement Team. My last service event of my corps year with CYBR was a partnered event with Mid City Redevelopment Alliance. Our project for the day was to restore a home in Mid City that had been badly worn down as a result of Baton Rouge weather. After a long day of scraping, painting, and hammering, the house was almost unrecognizable. The family that owned the newly restored house broke down in tears of joy, and thanked each and every corps member with a hug. That feeling was something I knew I wanted to continuously feel in whatever line of work I chose to do after City Year, so when the opportunity to do that for 1,700 more hours of my life was presented, I didn’t hesitate to take it.

CYP Civic Engagement team brightened up the Alexander K. McClure Elementary School with some Dr. Seuss.

The CYP Civic Engagement Team (CE, as we call it) is a seven member team lead by a sole Project Manager and made up of Senior AmeriCorps Members from five different CY sites across the country. Different from our school-based Senior AmeriCorps Members, our goal as a CE team is to recruit, plan, and execute large scale community impact days. Throughout this service year, we will engage up to 2,400 volunteers to beautify schools and learning environments for the students of Philadelphia. 

For each event, we meet with a partnering school to establish the school’s wants and needs. We then work around the clock to organize a day of service, filled with mural painting and beautification, to make those dreams a reality. Our work allows both non-profit and for-profit worlds to come together with one common goal: to create a positive learning environment for students of our community. Through these projects, we are able to make a difference in hundreds of student’s lives and give them a place that they are proud to walk into every morning.

CY Philadelphia and CY South Africa worked together during Aramark Building Community Day. 

Paint splattered and caked in sawdust, the transformation from my first AmeriCorps year to my Senior AmeriCorps year has been all but a clean one. I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I applied to be a Civic Engagement AmeriCorps Member, but now, I am positive that this is how I was meant to spend my second City Year. I’m still committed to making better happen, only this year I will be doing that one mural at a time.

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