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Posts tagged ‘MLK day’

Happy MLK Day from South Africa

“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t need a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – February 4, 1968

Everybody can serve, regardless of who you are and where you come from. Remember that service entails giving back to others, whether that is painting a mural at a school like my friends at City Year or something simple like picking up trash. It doesn’t have to be something as big as a two-year commitment with the Peace Corps. Service is anything that will help benefit humanity and bring equality and peace to this world. Thanks for the great words, Dr. King.

Although I may not be with City Year serving on MLK Day like last year, I did my part by teaching my 5th grade English class here in South Africa. It’s not a day off, but a day on!

What have you done to honor Dr. King’s legacy?

MLK Day at Los Angeles Academy Middle School

Today was City Year’s annual MLK service day; City Year sites across the nation mobilize their communities to treat MLK Day as a “day on” and not a day off to honor MLK’s values and ideals. Our service day took place at Los Angeles Academy Middle School in South LA. The event was sponsored by Disney and drew around 1,000 volunteers from all over LA to beautify the middle school’s campus by painting 28 murals. I was on communications squad duty, so I just floated around and talked to people. Here’s the post I wrote for CYLA’s blog to summarize the service day. Take a look at the video the comm squad edited to hear more from volunteers. The on-camera host, Josh, is one of my 13 roommates!

The Markham Middle School team painted a mural that says, “knowledge is infinite.”

Here’s my team before (as you can see, there’s never a dull moment with my team):


My teammate Becky during:


My teammate Ricky finishing up:


My teammates and I after:


A blog post by our CEO Michael Brown says that we’re fighting for what Education Secretary Arne Duncan calls “the civil rights of our generation.” Today, we honored MLK by serving, but we also do everyday by being advocates for our students.

Check out my alma mater’s coverage of the event on USC’s Neon Tommy. I got to play “source” instead of “reporter.” Bucket list item of any former journalism major? Getting quoted in a publication your friends have been editors and reporters for. Success.

Week 16: budget cuts are toying with my future plans

Slowly but surely, we got through our first week back at Markham after a month. The week dragged on because none of us were really ready to go back, but we have to get back in the motion of things because we’re not getting a break anytime soon.

My students weren’t ready to be back at Markham either. When I asked them how their breaks were, all of them said, “boring.” I asked them what they did, all of them said, “nothing.” That’s still better than being in school though, right?

The LAUSD common assessment is coming up for my students in their English class, so all week we worked on writing assertions. My English teacher merged her history lesson on ancient Egypt and writing assertions into one lecture (ancient Egypt is pretty darn interesting). My teacher and I are trying our hardest to get the students to understand that an assertion can be a really, really simple sentence like: “The ancient Egyptians believed in the after-life.” Instead, the students tend to write just a sentence about anything that has to do with Egypt. They also write sentences that are too detailed to be an assertion and then have trouble finding two details from their textbooks to prove the assertion. No matter how many times I tell them (or my teacher lectures) that the assertion is the main idea and to treat it like a topic sentence, I sometimes think they just don’t listen. Let’s hope the hours of work my teacher and I have put into going over assertions with them (we’ve been discussing this topic for about a month now) will translate into our student’s scoring “proficient” on the common assessment.

My math teacher decided to group students after the break based on skill; the higher performing students sit together and vice versa. I’m very happy with this decision because a lot of the students screw around in this class and don’t listen, which affects the students who do want to listen and learn. This seating arrangement also makes it easier for me to provide whole-class support (which is what I’ve been doing all year) because the kids who need my help the most all sit in close proximity. Now I won’t hear students scream, “MS. LIZ COME HELP ME” from across the room, but instead, it’ll be right in my ear.

This week I plan to go over complete and complex sentences with my students. I’ve decided I’m going to start a “complete sentences” chart and give points to students who have written all their English work in complete sentences. I’ll probably give candy as a prize (or even hot Cheetos…). Hopefully this will get them in the habit of writing complete sentences every time they write. I know they know how to write a complete sentence, but they just rush through their work and write gibberish.

My teammates and I really got the “welcome back” we were waiting for during sixth grade lunch on Wednesday. A total of six fights broke out (one of my sassy students claims it was seven. I don’t believe him). The fights involved boys and girls, some were in the bathrooms, others smack dab in the lunch area.

Fights don’t even phase me anymore. However, what was hard to watch was that every time a fight broke out, literally all the sixth graders would stampede over to watch it, over and over again. I tried to stop some of my students from watching the fights, but there’s only so much sense you can knock into a sixth grader, especially when watching is “the cool thing to do.” Even if my teacher or I tell the students it’s stupid to sit on the sidelines of these fights because they could get hurt, ultimately they’ll still watch. And no, I’m not just talking they could get punched. I’m talking they could get shot by a stray bullet. You never know if weapons could be involved.

One of my favorite girls was all pumped up after that lunch period and said how cool it was and she will fight someone eventually. This is my little student who wears bows in her hair and is such a caring girl! My response to her after she said that? “Don’t you dare even say that…not under my watch will you!” it just sucks that this is the school environment that these students are in and that it affects them regardless of how adorable, fun and loving they are. I hope my student was kidding.

There were also “rumbles” at lunch and during passing period, which means that the “village boys” (students who are in a gang) beat up random students. Hearing about the rumbles and witnessing the sixth grade fights has encouraged me even more to start working on a “Peace in Watts” week-long event with my middle school and two of the feeder elementary schools. The event will be promoting art as a way of expressing pride and peace in Watts instead of violence. The event is spearheaded by Miss Jadine, a co-worker who serves at Florence Griffith Joyner Elementary and put on this peaceful event last week. More details to come, but we’re planning to host the event in April.

Remember how I mentioned in my Peace Corps update post that I was looking into applying for a second year at City Year Los Angeles as an external relations project leader?

Well, that’s no longer happening. I just found out this week that that position was cut because of AmeriCorps funding cuts. I’m pretty bummed; I was stoked to potentially start working with media again outside of this blog.


So, now what’s my LACY (Leadership After City Year) plan? I have absolutely no idea. It’s looking like I’ll just have to move home (gag me), work at a restaurant and save money until I leave for the Peace Corps. Hey, I’ll still be “Liz in Service” serving tables (sarcasm alert)!

Just last week I was emailing my Peace Corps recruiter about how I was considering a second year at City Year and to potentially move my availability date back to summer 2013 instead of as soon as possible. She said she could, but I told her that I’d make the final decision in March to move my availability date or not because by then I’d know if I was offered the external relations position.

Instead, I had to send her this email today:


What’s ironic about all of this is that the reason why I haven’t got my actual Peace Corps nomination yet is because of funding, which is why I looked into serving with City Year for another year. I never thought my future would be directly influenced by government budget cuts, but hello, now it has.

However, I can still try to make a difference by getting my word out there on the National Peace Corps Association’s 2012 Day of Action and contact my Capitol Hill reps.

I can also look into other AmeriCorps programs, but I don’t want to have to leave City Year just yet. I love the work atmosphere at this organization and see how much potential it has to grow (I had ideas, too!) My roommate asked me at dinner tonight if I was “mourning” the loss of the office position. Yeah, she was right. I’m mourning. I just wish I had a definite nomination for the Peace Corps right now so I didn’t have to frantically look for alternatives.

Tomorrow is Martin Luther King’s birthday. Our students and other Americans get this day off, but it’s a “day on” for all of us at City Year because we are celebrating MLK’s legacy and ideals. MLK called for all Americans to act together in peace, which is what we will be doing tomorrow at our largest service day (with ~1,000 people) at a middle school in South LA, Los Angeles Academy. I’m writing the post about it for CYLA’s blog. Blog post and pictures of the murals we paint will be posted tomorrow!

Good night and good luck,
Ms. Lizard

Let freedom ring at Florence Griffith Joyner Elementary School

Something I’ve observed while working in Watts is that people are really proud of who they are, whether that is African-American or Latino. If you ask students to think about a historical figure, they generally say Martin Luther King (one of our after-school challenges is to write about a historical figure). Why? Students in this community are taught at an early age about the civil rights movement and the work Martin Luther King did, which is so central to the pride African-Americans have in Watts and all over the United States today.

On Friday, at Florence Griffith Joyner Elementary School, City Year reenacted the Aug. 28, 1963 March on Washington led by Martin Luther King. The City Year team at Florence Griffith Joyner (FloJo) put together the event and the rest of the South Los Angeles school teams got to participate. The FloJo team assigned the two middle school teams, Markham (my team) and Gompers, to work directly with the elementary students for a refreshing change of pace.

I was placed in a first grade classroom to teach students the chant they would be chanting during the march. The kids listened, participated, said thank you, smiled at me and hugged me. Was the real life? I’m used to students not listening, doing whatever they want, not doing work, not participating, yelling, cussing each other out, and so the list goes on. Long story short, the students were absolutely adorable and it was so much fun to work with them.

I taught them this chant: hey hey, ho ho, the violence has got to go. The students made their own picket signs to carry that said, “equality for all”, “we don’t want to sit in the back of the bus”, and “peace”.


I asked them what they could do to create peace in Watts. They said they could follow laws, treat others fairly and treat others the way they want to be treated. We wrote these on strips of paper that City Year later assembled into a paper chain that represented every classroom at FloJo.



Then, the students marched and chanted around the blacktop twice with the rest of the school. They stopped at the Washington Monument that was recreated by the FloJo team.


The students listened to two student speakers; one student introduced Martin Luther King and another student (“little Martin Luther King) recited parts of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. This little 5th grader spoke so well! I was standing next to his father and I could tell how proud he was of his son.

All in all, this event was awesome and taught the students a valuable lesson. Good job FloJo!

But, there’s still one harsh, harsh reality: these cute little angels will all be Markham Middle School students someday. Students, hold onto your innocence. Always promote peace.

Here’s video of my teammate Jeanny chanting with her little ones: