Erica Hamilton


One Day in Schools Can Spark a Lifelong Commitment to a Cause

Service days fulfill a purpose far greater than the paint put on the walls or the blankets made to donate to Sandy victims

"Why not volunteer on MLK Day?" was the confused response my 7-year-old son gave when his friend asked why he spent his 'day off' working with 1,000 other volunteers painting, organizing, and building in one of Brooklyn's most underperforming schools. Being a mother and the executive director of City Year New York has offered me many opportunities where my worlds serendipitously intersect and great moments like these are born. And in this particular moment I was reminded once again that the importance of service days like these isn't just the physical improvement we make to the schools we volunteer in, but rather the lasting impression we make in the minds of the volunteers who realize the impact they can have.

Over the years City Year's mission has become focused on ending the high school dropout crisis in this country. As part of this evolution of our mission we have had to evaluate the value of offering these one-off volunteering opportunities, like the Martin Luther King Service Day event my son participated in. Although these service days enable us to engage hundreds of volunteers in a focused service activity, the one-day duration of the activity doesn't provide the ongoing and consistent support we provide to the students we work with in schools daily.

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