On December 10th, the world will observe Human Rights Day, to commemorate the day on which the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. This year in particular, the United Nations is calling on everyone to “stand up for someone’s human rights today.”

Lucy Redd Captures City Year Chicago AmeriCorps members at Unity Rally as they form lines and prepare to perform Physical Training, or "PT"

On Friday, December 2, the entire City Year Chicago corps gathered at Federal Plaza in downtown Chicago for Unity Rally, where we demonstrate unified action through physical training and chanting. During Unity Rally, the Ripples Founding Story, which is comprised of Robert Kennedy’s famous speech in South Africa, immediately came to mind, and made me reflect on the ways in which the small day-to-day actions build towards broad change.

One line of Robert F. Kennedy’s speech stood out to me in particular: “Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

That Friday, we all participated in the call to service – standing out in the brisk early winter Chicago air, stomping and clapping in perfect time in our layers of red. When looking around me, I couldn’t help but think about how we are all coming together from our 26 schools across Chicago to represent City Year as one – to exemplify and gain recognition for the collective daily fight for the right to a quality education for everyone, regardless of their zip code. Even within our schools, we all have our own individual students, yet every single one of us feels that pull towards working to build up and empower these amazing children. We are all sending out tiny ripples every day, whether it is through helping a fourth grader sound out a tough word, or letting a middle school student know how happy we are to see them during morning greeting.

However, although as City Year we go into schools every day aiming to stand up for our students, the real champions and ripples of change are coming from the students themselves. Every day, our kids show us how brilliant, hard working, resilient, and strong they are. City Year would not exist without them. We are one City Year, but they are all unique individuals full of potential.

This Saturday, in honor of Human Rights Day, we should not only take a moment to reflect on our service and the ways in which we can continue to stand up for someone’s human rights, today and every day, but also the ways in which our students are doing the same, building stronger schools, communities, and cities. 

– Lucy Redd is an AmeriCorps member serving at the Piccolo School of Excellence in the Humboldt Park Community.

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