Volunteer corps spruces up school, community center City Year starts new season of service


COURTNEY HERGESHEIMER | DISPATCH PHOTOSBy  Dylan Tussel

As Posted in the Columbus Dispatch

City Year member Liz Hageman, 23, of St. Louis, paints a table as the corps helps to polish Tray Lee Community Center on the North Side.

Columbus-area volunteers spent yesterday morning doing community service as part of City Year’s annual “Opening Day.”

Each fall, City Year — an AmeriCorps organization that focuses on education — celebrates new members’ completion of training and the beginning of their yearlong commitment to the program, said Cristin Bryant, who oversaw yesterday’s activities.

This year, one group went to Como Elementary School in North Linden and another worked at the Tray Lee Community Center on the North Side.

“It’s very demanding, but so much more rewarding,” said Roosevelt Williams III, 24, who spent his morning at Como painting murals of the school’s mascot, the Como Dragon.

“We were bringing the school back to life,” he said, noting that the old murals had become worn.

Those at Tray Lee touched up hopscotch and foursquare boards outside the building, painted and weeded in the American Addition Community Garden around the corner, and cleaned the inside of the center.

“It’s just so much. I couldn’t even begin to tell you,” said Marie Moreland-Short, volunteer director of the community center, which hosts after-school activities and a summer camp. “It improves the whole neighborhood. We’re just so thankful.”

Melissa Santiago, who graduated in May from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, painted a hopscotch grid on the ground.

“This is an area in the community where kids can come play for free, who might not have other safe areas to play,” Santiago, said.

City Year is in 21 U.S. states, London and South Africa. Established in 1988 in Boston, the organization has about 2,000 members, ages 17 to 24. The Columbus chapter, formed in 1994, has 24 volunteers; about 1 in 5 applicants to the program receives a spot.

The organization began with the goal of solving community issues through service, said Bryant, who’s beginning her fifth year volunteering for the group. Within the past 10 years, she said, City Year has directed its focus to education.

Williams said the City Year service hits close to home. Many black students fail for lack of a respectable role model, he said, but could be successful with one.

“As an African-American male . . . I want to be that positive influence in their life,” said Williams, who helps Linden-McKinley STEM Academy middle-schoolers with their math and English.

“It’s one of the greatest things I’ve ever done.”

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