“Hey Coach Andy,” David said, bouncing into practice on Monday morning. “Someone threw trash all over the field again.” The coach expressed his similar disappointment, but that didn’t stop David. “If you need someone to clean it up again, I would be delighted.”
David was referring to the park cleanup two days before in Cornell Square Park, where the Daley soccer team and parents joined forces with new Coach Across America coaches to plant flowers, paint murals, and pick up trash at the park the Daley team calls home. This park cleanup improved the neighborhood asset in the park while at the same time giving the Daley team an opportunity to serve.
Service learning provides a crucial link between action and the character lessons that Urban Initiatives staff teaches every session in the Work to Play Program. At Cornell Square, soccer players were asked to think of their team as expanding out from soccer, to their school, and out into their neighborhoods. Already in possession of the teamwork vocabulary from their time with Urban Initiatives, these players will now be able to apply it to the rest of their lives.
Players and coaches alike beamed with pride at the bright flowers adorning the planters in front of Daley’s main entrance and the sparkling paint on the American flag overlaid with a peace symbol at the entrance to the park. There really is nothing like admiring the work that many hands built, and in just three hours!
The great benefit of this project is not just the beautiful flowers and mural that resulted, but that kids make connections to teamwork and responsibility in their neighborhood like David has. Urban Initiatives’ programs are building young people who, in contrast to trashing a park every weekend, take pride in making their public spaces beautiful, and are energized to continue to take responsibility for them at a very young age.