The blog series “Day in the Life” seeks to illustrate what it’s like to be a Serve Philadelphia VISTA. In the posts, current corps members explore what they’re learning from their position, how they’re contributing to their office, and what it means to do a year of service.
In 1983, after years of advocacy by politicians, activists, and artists, Martin Luther King Jr Day was made a national holiday. MLK Day was designated a national day of service in 1994, distinguishing it from other federal holidays. Every year on the 3rd Monday in January the day is honored through service to others in many ways, like beautification projects, serving meals, or organizing teach-ins about the values and ideals King stood for.
The King Day of Service began in Philadelphia in 1996 and has since grown into the largest initiative of its kind. In 2016 alone, over 140,000 volunteers engaged in over 1,800 projects across the Greater Philadelphia area. To mark the holiday, many nonprofits and city offices close with the expectation that employees will use this time to participate in service projects. As a SERVE Philadelphia VISTA, I was asked to do the same.
I spent my MLK Day 2018 at a project coordinated through my service site, the Mayor’s Office of Education. Over 40 volunteers painted a hallway to help make the school more welcoming and vibrant for students. Volunteers included community members, fellow SERVE VISTAs, Mayor’s Office of Education staff, members of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and members of Councilwoman Cherelle Parker’s team.
It was an enjoyable experience to work alongside both members of my VISTA corps and the people I work with every day. It felt even more significant to see the effects the project was already having on the school while it was happening. The school’s climate manager was so thrilled to be participating in the beautification project that he even took time to speak to his network on Facebook Live about the importance of making the school more welcoming to the students. This King Day of Service was a great way to combine my behind-the-scenes work as a VISTA with direct service. I look forward to many more years working on these kinds of projects, even when I end up covered in blue paint from head to toe.
Anna Snyder is the Community Schools Summer Planning VISTA for the Mayor's Office of Education.
Are you interested in being a part of next year's SERVE Philadelphia VISTA Corps? Fill out an interest form today!