City Year makes Umana’s day

His family’s enduring legacy was rooted here in East Boston so it was fitting that the young volunteers from City Year dedicated their upcoming year of service to the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy and kicked off their opening day beautifying the Mario Umana Middle School Academy.

The City Year volunteers spent last Friday afternoon painting murals, fixing up the school and adjacent community center’s skate park, repainting the basketball courts and cleaning tree pits.

These volunteers joined 1,5000 other City Year members across the country in a pledge to serve children and communities nationwide as the 2009-2010 City Year corps. These men and women will collectively serve more than 2.5 million hours to community and country as tutors, mentors and role models who help students and schools like the Umana succeed.

“Every 26 seconds a student drops out of high school in America, which has profound implications for their future and will result in tremendous cost to society,” said City Year CEO and Co-founder Michael Brown. “Today we celebrate the idealism and commitment of the more than 1500 diverse young leaders who are putting on their red jackets to spend a year in full-time service, keeping students in school and on track to graduate.”

Each of the corps members in service with City Year is committing to 1,700 hours of service to improve the attendance, behavior and coursework of students at-risk of dropping out, and to lead transformative physical service projects that revive playgrounds, community gardens and school facilities in East Boston and surrounding neighborhoods.

Citizen service is increasingly being recognized as an important way that America can address some of its toughest domestic challenges, including those in schools. The recent passage of Senator Kennedy’s Serve America Act, with its proposal to create an Education Corps, demonstrates a renewed commitment to service and its critical role in improving society.

As part of Opening Day, the young City Year leaders immediately acted on their commitment by engaging citizens in service projects.

Not only at the Umana but also at buildings and parks across the country, Americans from all walks of life joined together last Friday on the common ground of service to paint murals, landscape parks and renovate community centers. Many of the service projects took place in schools in which City Year corps members serve throughout the year.

“We’ve always had a great relationship with the Umana and Harborside Community Center,” said City Year Deputy Director of External Affairs Rick Jakious. “City Year was founded on the belief that young people can change the world. City Year’s vision is that one-day the most commonly asked question of a young person will be, “Where are you going to do your service year?”

This year, 1,500 answer that question in service at 19 City Year locations across America. These corps members serving in the United States follow in the footsteps of the 12,500 alumni who have served more than 2 million children during 20 million hours of service as City Year corps members since 1988.

“And as they “give a year. change the world,” they will make their own history in the lives of children, and the national service movement,” said Jakious.

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