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What I thought would be a simple paint job turned out to be so much more: a meaningful service effor...

Volunteer Experience: Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service

January 25th, 2012

What I thought would be a simple paint job turned out to be so much more: a meaningful service effort in remembrance of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. But looking back, I see how much of an impact a group of volunteers could make.

As project leaders, staff members Rachel Corell, Ann Wang, and I took over fifty UCLA volunteers from Ackerman turnaround to Los Angeles Academy Middle School. As I stepped onto the bus, I realized how excited each and every one of them was to spend their holiday serving.

After a smooth sign-in process and some coffee from Starbucks, we were ready to work. The organizers of the event, members of City Year, spent a good amount of time energizing us with warm-ups and team cheering. And then the thousand volunteers moved out to their projects. The other volunteers from L.A. told us it was inspiring to see such a large group of college students march in together.

We were to beautify Los Angeles Academy’s large campus, and there was a lot to be done. My group moved to the parking lot, where a large concrete wall stood prepared for a painting that would embody the spirit of knowledge and learning. Our City Year teammates became acquainted with us through a few icebreakers before we picked up our brushes and cups of paint. As we drew out circles and filled in blue, volunteers had even more time to socialize and make new friends.

After a couple hours of work, a grand mural stood overlooking the soccer field, depicting ocean waves and mountains and displaying the words “Knowledge is power.”

Our group returned to the center of the school for a complimentary lunch, and on our way, we caught a glimpse of the other projects. Having finished early, we moved on to assist these sites.

I hadn’t realized it as I worked, but as I returned to the main quad of the school, I saw that the school had been transformed. The massive paint job had made the place much more colorful and pleasant to be in. The students were in for a surprise on Tuesday.

But I think it was most satisfying to know that the volunteers on the bus ride home were inspired to do more, to partake in greater projects, and to remember that, as a wise pastor from Alabama said, “everyone can be great…because anyone can serve.”

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About the Author

Richard Sambasivam is a second-year economics UCLA student and the Web and Social Media Assistant at the UCLA Volunteer Center.

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