Service Through Collaboration: How One Jumpstart Site is Celebrating MLK Day

by Erin Croix

Erin Croix is a Jumpstart Site Manager at the University of Southern California (USC) and Jumpstart alumna from the University of California, Berkeley.

“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.”
– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Jumpstart USC is part of the USC Alliance for Civic Engagement, a newly formed group of community organizations all funded through USC’s Good Neighbors grant program that have come together to discuss how we can better support USC’s surrounding neighborhoods as allies, rather than as separate entities. The inauguration of this alliance featured a conversation about prepositions (of all things). The following question was posed to the audience: What gives us the right to call ourselves the University of Southern California, rather than a University in Southern California? The former preposition carries a responsibility that the latter does not, and asks the USC community to reflect on our position in Southern California and whether or not we’re safeguarding our community to the extent that we get to call ourselves the University of Southern California.

The theme this year at Jumpstart USC fits neatly with the ideals of the USC Alliance for Civic Engagement: Service through Collaboration. We’re celebrating what Dr. King knew all along—that together we are greater than the sum of our parts. Individuals, organizations, communities—we have to partner with one another, and we have to critically evaluate the actions we’re taking both separately and together in our community. This message is the undercurrent not only of Jumpstart USC, or the USC Alliance for Civic Engagement, but of AmeriCorps as a whole and the broader commitment to national service that AmeriCorps members make across the country every year. We seek new partnerships, explore our role as community leaders, and continuously strive to develop our network of service-minded allies.

On Dr. King’s birthday, I am particularly inspired by his ideals, including the idea that “The time is always right to do what is right.” Today, Jumpstart USC is observing a Day On, Not Day Off. We’ll be partnering with Reading Partners Los Angeles to participate in today’s L.A. Works’ MLK, Jr. Day of Service, working as one team to beautify a local Title I school.

I believe that our efficacy is positively correlated with the size of our service networks, and that we are all stronger when we operate not as one Jumpstart Corps at one Jumpstart site, but as an AmeriCorps family in our shared neighborhoods. One community at a time, we will get things done for America, just as we swear to do in our AmeriCorps service oaths every October, and just as Dr. King envisioned.

Together, we can help all children build the key language and literacy skills they need to take on the world.

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