Mr. KimToday we welcome guest blogger, Mr. Kiltae F. Kim, principal of Lloyd Elementary School, to share his experience working with Serve-a-thon volunteers in 2010.

 IMPACT happens when we first say to ourselves “I Must Personally ACT.” What IMPACT do Chicago Cares volunteers have on the communities they serve? 

As principal of an elementary school with PK-5th grade children, my work is measured by how our school can positively influence the lives of our young students. Just like Chicago Cares and its volunteers, we believe that a life dedicated to the betterment and service of others is of critical importance for our students. Our mission to “learn, grow, and serve” got a boost last year when we saw 200 volunteers modeling these values alongside our community at Serve-a-thon 2010.

Last June, we were so fortunate to have the Siemens “family” of volunteers come and visit us. We knew that about 200 would be coming, but the magnitude of that number did not hit us until we saw the 3-4 yellow school buses and an army of completely pumped volunteers arrive to beautify our community. As we greeted them, seeing the smiles and positive energy that flowed from their pores confirmed it was going to be a great day.

About 30 Lloyd school staff, family members, and students were there to witness this army of volunteers, ready to meet the needs of a building that is over 100 years old. As our Lloyd family served alongside our Chicago Cares volunteers, it was touching to see that business professionals would spend their free day creating a surprise present for 1,300 students; students that come from caring, hard-working, immigrant and minority families. As he worked on planting flowers outside of our main entrance, I heard one of our students, Malik ask aloud, “Did they all come here for us?”

Planting flowers and getting mulch on needed areas was just one of many things our Chicago Cares volunteers accomplished. Several classrooms and our auditorium got a fresh coat of paint. A few dark hallways and offices on the first floor were made brighter, benches and murals were joyfully and passionately painted. Mosaic tile work created the simple message that at Lloyd “We Grow Readers.” One of the murals from that day, (Get Healthy!) is housed in our cafeteria and has inspired thoughtfulness and consciousness about healthy eating and living within our community.

The Global Initiatives Academy, an after-school club of 3rd-5th grade students whose mission is to build student leadership through service opportunities, was inspired by seeing and interacting with Chicago Cares volunteers. As a result, this club of 8, 9 and 10 year olds are conducting recycling projects, clean-up days, and designed the marketing and PR for the Healthy Kids Market; a partnership with the Greater Chicago Food Depository where over 300 families come to select nutritious and high quality foods at no charge. These are food items that our current generation of children desperately needs to lead healthier lives.

As educators, and I am going to speak for our teachers as well, we get to do what we love every day. Teaching and serving in a low-income, urban school is one of the most challenging and demanding professions that exist. However, it is also one of the most rewarding and meaningful. As Katherine Graham once said, To love what you do and feel that it matters – how could anything be more fun?”

We hope you can participate in Serve-a-thon, an exciting and meaningful service adventure. IMPACT happens when we first say to ourselves “I Must Personally ACT.” We thank you in advance. Now it’s your turn to make a difference!