MLK Day 2015 with buildOn at Furness High School

On Monday, January 19, 2015, in honor of Martin Luther King Day, the British American Business Council of Greater Philadelphia’s Young Professionals Group (BABC YPG) collaborated with buildOn to host a service project at Furness High School. buildOn’s mission is to empower teens to take an active role in buoying their community and making a difference both here in Philadelphia and across the globe. The BABC was introduced to buildOn by the late Toby Wallace who worked for Aberdeen Asset Management and was a prior BABC YPG Co-Leader. In memory of Toby and in support of buildOn, current BABC YPG Co-Leaders Julien Franklin from Aberdeen Asset Management and Patrick Riley from Bartlett & Company planned this day of service project. The goal of the day was to improve Furness High School by painting rooms and murals, and mentoring students.

More than 26 languages are spoken by students who walk the halls of the 101 year old school named for Horace Furness, the leading authority (of his time) of William Shakespeare. In honor of Shakespeare and the British connection to the Bard, BABC Board President Howard Silverstone welcomed and thanked program participants by reading a poem he wrote for the occasion. Furness Principal, Dan Peou spoke briefly about the school’s commitment to educating a diverse student body. Everyone gathered in the cafeteria where the Principal said “look around the room today, despite the color of people’s skin everyone is sitting at tables, eating and working together – this happens every day.” Furness High School represents what Dr. King fought for – unity and respect notwithstanding racial and cultural differences.

The day’s activities included special presentations prepared and delivered by buildOn Furness High School students. The beautifully written and heartfelt poems, videos, songs and discussions focused on the students’ interest in taking control of their community and making their environment a safer, happier and more beautiful space. Leading up to the event, buildOn worked with students throughout Furness High School to identify iconic images to represent their cultural identity. These images, traced onto banners, were painted on Martin Luther King Day, and when dry, will be hung throughout the school building representing unity. The goal of the banners is to promote school pride and embrace the diversity within the institution.

The welcome ceremony was the perfect icebreaker to divide into groups and begin working together on the murals and painting the classrooms. BABC members and friends labored side-by-side Furness students, faculty and administrators. People talked as they painted and got to know one another. Following several hours of hard work everyone was invited to participate in a yoga session or a friendly game of soccer. Despite the morning’s donuts and coffee, appetites were wetted and people were ready for lunch and a scavenger hunt designed to learn more about buildOn and how teens are actively making a difference in their community, their schools, and in their own lives.

Perhaps the aspects of the day with the most impact were the collaboration and conversations between people of different ages and cultural backgrounds. What do the BABC and Furness High School students have in common? Nothing might be your answer, but you could not be more incorrect. We are all people, residing in this region, each and every one of us contributing in our own way to our community. The day ended on a high note with “We are…” poems written and recited by one person from each group of volunteers.

“We are… the same human beings, no matter our race
We see… the same bright future, no matter our past
We wonder… how we will change it, no matter how hard it is
We want… more people to take responsibility, no matter their background
We hope… for better tomorrows, no matter what happens today
We dream… of the same future, no matter how different we are
We will… change the world”

Special thanks to Crystal Collins, buildOn Program Manager at Furness High School who worked with the students to design the busy and meaningful day of service, and to Skylar Badenoch , Vice President, New Business Development, Melissa Hersh, Development Director, Philadelphia, and Bryan DeFoney, Greater Philadelphia Area Program Coordinator, both from buildOn.

Click here to view pictures.

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