MLK Day of Service 2012
In honor of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, Opportunity Nation and ServiceNation have partnered to highlight ways to increase economic opportunities through service in your local community. Between New Years’ Day and MLK Day, we will share concrete strategies to serve. These strategies will be aligned with the recently released Opportunity Index, a new tool to measure opportunity in communities.
We may suggest an opportunity in one state or city, but encourage you to visit our coalition partner websites or the Points of Light All For Good Database, a resource where you can find even more service opportunities across the country.
Dr. King worked for increased opportunity for all Americans. Now, more than ever, we need to work to create and support opportunities for Americans to strengthen their economic security.
SERVICE STRATEGY #12: THE KEY TO UNLOCKING OPPORTUNITY: EDUCATION
"The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education." - Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dr. King realized that a solid education is more than a launching pad to a career. In addition to giving our young people the chance to be successful participants in the global economy, it is the chance to develop men and women of character, who empathize with their fellow citizens, and are equipped to think about how to make the world a better place. One of the most important ways we can work to expand opportunity in our communities is to ensure that education at all levels is the best we have to offer our children.
Because the road to a high school diploma starts the second a young child first steps into the classroom as a young child, the Opportunity Index measures the strength of K-12 education in its entirety for nearly every community in the country.
Opportunities to get involved in the education of our children are numerous. From volunteering and mentoring to fundraising and school leadership, you can guarantee that the investment of your time and money in public education is one of the best investments you can make.
It's fitting that so many of our wonderful coalition partners come from the education sector. Volunteer in your area to make a difference: Tutor a 9th grader in Boston; help children with homework in a Chicago after-school program; become a book-drive organizer in Arkansas.
SERVICE STRATEGY #11: HELPING ON A LOCAL, NATIONAL, AND GLOBAL SCALE
Opportunity Nation is committed to partnering with a diverse group of key sectors to ensure that our vision of expanding social mobility reaches all Americans. Accordingly, we've reached out to a number of leading faith organizations representing the diversity of American beliefs to partner with us in our work. We believe in the central role that people of faith can play in helping to restore the American Dream.
World Vision International is one of the largest relief and development organizations in the world. Since 1977, World Vision has been a major player in addressing global poverty and responding to major humanitarian crises around the world primarily through their child sponsor program which reaches over 100 million people in over 100 countries. In addition to their work abroad, World Vision has also brought its mission of "working with the poor and oppressed to promote human transformation and seek justice" home through its program to address poverty in the United States. It is in this capacity that World Vision--United States has joined our coalition and is taking a leadership role in the Opportunity Nation campaign.
World Vision's key program to address poverty through assistance and advocacy is their Youth Empowerment Program (YEP). This program partners with local pastors, youth workers, teachers, business owners, students, and parents as they transform their neighborhoods to fight poverty, according to their website. To this end, World Vision works through a number of programs to address poverty such as distribution centers to meet basic needs, humanitarian assistance in the wake of crisis to stabilize communities, and education and youth development to provide tutoring and life skills training.
Discover more information about ways to volunteer by visiting Word Vision's overview on poverty in America.
SERVICE STRATEGY #10: A WAY TO LIFT PEOPLE UP, AND NEVER LET THEM DOWN AGAIN
As Dr. King reminds us, the level of poverty in our nation is a measure of our civility. It tells of our ability to empathize and share suffering in a way that compels us to action. One of our key steering committee members, LIFT, has taken the call to alleviate poverty upon themselves and in the last year alone “mobilized 674 volunteers who contributed 126,000 volunteer hours and assisted about 10,000 families” according to a recent New York Times article about their work.
LIFT’s model is founded on the belief that relationships are key and to that end focuses on recruiting and training volunteers determined to be uniquely humble, transparent, and friendly. These traits are vital for volunteers who are leaned on to stabilize a person's current situation and help them begin to think about the long term. LIFT volunteers help with everything from resumes and jobs to immigration and food resources.
The impact LIFT volunteers have is measurable, immediate, and life-changing. To learn more about LIFT, visit www.liftcommunities.org. You can find out how to get involved in Boston, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, or Washington, D.C. by clicking here.
SERVICE STRATEGY #9 - HELPING MAIN STREET BUSINESS STAY COMPETITIVE WITH THE GLOBAL MARKETPLACE
In an increasingly globalized economy, communication and innovation happen at the speed of light. For communities to benefit from technology, they must be able to tap into networks that allow them to connect with people all around the world in the blink of an eye. The Opportunity Index measures the percentage of households that have access to high-speed Internet. This is a key dimension of our local economy measure because it speaks to the ability for a given community to connect and transact with communities and markets around the world.
The FCC reports that one in three Americans are without access to high-speed Internet via broadband, putting us 15th among 30 industrialized countries. If we can provide efficient technology to more Americans, we will help communities expand economic opportunity, improve the quality of education, enhance the delivery of health care, conserve resources through smarter energy grids, and increase civic engagement to improve public life.
You can help make a difference in how technology is used in your community. First, use the tools at www.broadband.gov to learn more about your community's level of access and existing efforts to expand it. From there, you can volunteer to teach kids computer literacy by getting involved with a virtual English class for refugees in Boston; track your public service through social media via www.myImpact.org; or take a class and learn to expand your own skills or business using technology.
SERVICE STRATEGY #8: TRAINING TOMORROW'S LEADERS TODAY
“True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.” -MLK
The employment rate at the local level is a key indicator of community health. A job is more than a paycheck and a means to provide for your family - it is a source of confidence, a way to make a difference in the lives of customers, and a healthy place to establish new relationships in the community. As you decide how best to join Opportunity Nation in 2012, consider focusing on helping the underemployed members of your community find meaningful work.
We have a number of coalition partners focused on expanding employment opportunities and social mobility. Here are a few great ways to get involved:
If you’re in San Francisco check out our coalition partner New Door Ventures, who trains young people to work in businesses run by the organization; n Los Angeles, volunteer with Chrysalis and help homeless and low-income individuals acquire the job skills necessary to become successful employees; reach out to our partner i.c.stars in Chicago and be a resume coach or a mock interviewer to help low-income adults jump-start a technology career; organize community anti-poverty initiatives in Miami as an Americorps Vista; or help with the Volunteer Improvement Project in Nevada!
SERVICE STRATEGY #7: CIVIC PARTICIPATION AS A PROBLEM SOLVING STRATEGY
The impact of civic participation on the quality of life in our communities cannot be overstated. Some measures of opportunity, such as education and the economy, are more readily quantifiable and have direct outcomes.
But how do you measure the far reaching impact of neighbors rallying around the preservation of a historic landmark? Or families joining together to welcome newcomers into the community? Or town hall meetings full of charitable citizens coming together to support local leadership? Or a vibrant PTO meeting that celebrates a successful fundraiser?
In these moments, the intangible goodwill of people coming together to expand opportunity is a meaningful indicator of the health of our communities.
Given the ties we cannot escape, it follows that the more we engage with one another in constructive ways, the better future we can create together. That’s why the Opportunity Index takes into account two key indicators that measure the strength of our life together: volunteerism and group membership. We want to give a snapshot of civic participation in our communities and provide ways to expand opportunities to friends and neighbors to take action together.
The Points of Light Institute is a key Opportunity Nation partner committed to expanding civic engagement and helping “people get involved in solving some of the world’s greatest challenges.” In the lead up to MLK Day on January 16th, they are encouraging citizens and neighbors all across America to join together for a “Sunday Supper”. These suppers are a chance to share a meal and discuss how to expand opportunity and access to the American Dream.
Visit Points of Light's website to learn how to join or organize your own Sunday Supper with friends and neighbors!
SERVICE STRATEGY #6: HOW A 10 YEAR OLD'S LEMONADE STAND CHANGED THE WORLD
Opportunity Nation is proud of its diverse coalition partners who are expanding access to opportunity every day in communities across our country. Knowing that paths to the American Dream are often paved by entrepreneurial skills and savvy, we are excited that Lemonade Day, an innovative program teaching business skills to young people, is a part of our campaign. As you look for ways to support young people and serve with a unique program in your local community in the year ahead, read more about Lemonade Day and check them out at www.LemonadeDay.org. To learn how Lemonade Day got its start - and how a 10 year old's lemonade stand changed the world - read the story on our blog by clicking here.
SERVICE STRATEGY #5: DOING OUR PART TO HELP COMMUNITY HEALTH
The Opportunity Index looks closely at the issue of access to healthcare as a part of living in a community of opportunity, specifically Primary Care Providers. In many rural counties there are few or no primary care physicians nearby and even in urban St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana, there are fewer than 55 doctors per 100,000 - far lower than the national average of 118 doctors per 100,000. Volunteers and community organizations often help fill the gap and promote public health and serve patients. Find out about health access in your community by looking up your community’s opportunity score and then help your community have a healthy life! Become a Community HealthCorps Member in Louisiana; Volunteer with Grace Hill Neighborhood Health Center in Missouri; work with the Boys and Girls Club Outreach and Enrichment Initiative in Denver! Find opportunities in your area to promote equal access to quality and reliable health care and information by visiting www.allforgood.org.
SERVICE STRATEGY #4: PROMOTING CHILD AND ADOLESCENT LITERACY, ONE BOOK AT A TIME
Opportunity Nation Scholar and University of Maryland, College Park student, Marvin Mathew, shares his personal story of how he helped organized a book drive to promote literacy and education in New York. Inspired by the Opportunity Nation Summit, Marvin worked with several partners in Rockland County, NY to collect more than 4,000 children and adolescent books and donate them to five organizations in the local area.
Mathew is an example of service in action. Check out his story here on the Opportunity Nation blog.
SERVICE STRATEGY #3: ACTIVE TEENS ARE SUCCESSFUL ADULTS
Studies - such as the Opportunity Index - have shown that helping teenagers stay active in work, school, or commnity activities gives them a better shot at becoming successful adults. Reach out to youth in gangs in Texas, or become a youth board member for the American Red Cross. Looking for something closer to home? You can find many more opportunities to make a difference in your area by visiting All for Good!
Over the last three decades, YouthBuild USA has successfully transitioned disadvantaged youth into a productive adulthood through community-based programs focused on education, job training, personal counseling, community service, leadership development, placement in college or jobs, and follow-up support after graduation. Over 100,000 youth have benefited from YouthBuild USA’s 6-24 month program and half of those participating are able to turn their lives around for the better.
You can make a commitment to YouthBuild USA by volunteering with a local organization or exploring how you can start a program in your community. YouthBuild USA and the young people participating in its programs have been instrumental in helping develop Opportunity Nation’s policy ideas and also led an inspiring Youth Town Hall during the Opportunity Nation Summit presenting the vital perspective of young adults.
SERVICE STRATEGY #2: HELPING ELIMINATE HUNGER BY INCREASING ACCESS TO HEALTHY FOODS
According to the USDA, 48.8 million Americans lived in households that did not have enough food to feed all its inhabitants in 2010, including 16.2 million children. Hunger is painful and miserable for children in the moment, and it can be an obstacle to opportunity, as children who are hungry may have trouble focusing on school work. Over the last few years, several studies and articles have brought more attention to “food deserts”, urban and rural communities without access to nearby affordable and nutritious foods and the possible negative health outcomes associated with living there.
All year round, Opportunity Nation coalition members like New York City Coalition Against Hunger engage volunteers, both short-term help in the kitchen or food pantries across New York City, but more importantly, committed volunteers who can offer a skill like accounting or web design. And Share our Strength has lots of creative ways for all Americans to make a difference, like the Great American Bake Sale which you can host this month or any time of year.
In the Opportunity Index we measure a community’s access to grocery stores, just one element of food security. Help everyone in your community have access to healthy foods: Become a SNAP Outreach Advocate in Nevada; join the Anti-Hunger Empowerment Corps in Maine; or sign up to serve hot meals in New Jersey on MLK Day!
SERVICE STRATEGY #1: HELPING CHILDREN START ON THE RIGHT FOOT
Education has been the ladder of opportunity in America - and learning begins long before a student enters his or her first classroom. An impressive body of research has shown that early investments in children ages 0-5 can make a major difference in their cognitive, social and emotional development. In our Opportunity Index, we consider the number of 3-4 year olds in a quality pre-school program to be an important education indicator. What’s most important is that all kids enter school with basic skills and ready to learn. There are many ways to help our community’s children succeed- from reading a book with toddlers in our own families to supporting local libraries.
All for Good has a few great options to commit to serve in 2012: Volunteer at a preschool in LA with Jumpstart, an Opportunity Nation Steering Committee member with programs across the country; become a Playspace Activity Leader at Horizons for Homeless Children in Massachusetts; or help childhood literacy rates in Georgia.
For more information on MLKDay 2012, please visit www.MLKDay.gov.