Youth Call to Service: MLK Day Off? Make It a Day On!

Jan. 16, 2017 Update This year it’s particularly poignant to contrast the ethics, integrity and service values of our outgoing President Obama with the stark greed, corruption, and narcissism of the incoming oligarchy that threatens our very democracy, so this is a call to action for each and every American to serve not just today, but year-round. 

On the #MLKDay site Dr. King’s bannered quote, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?” is particularly relevant with its roll up the sleeves database for volunteering and taking action with compassion…Especially given these Trumpian times of self-serving billions slashing the affordable care act to those who most need it and building wealth for the elite corporate few with the most self-serving, nepotistic conflict of interest credos and heinously unqualified sock puppets ever nominated. (yes, that’s an editorial comment, MY views, my blog)

Our citizenry needs to use the MLK service mandate reaching across civil rights, health and wellness, facts and journalistic freedoms of speech, and the fragile environment work to address the reckless, feckless administration coming into power with volunteerism to instead hold accountable and serve our country tenfold.

We will be challenged and continually tasked to build a nation by the people, for the people rather than dismantled to serve foreign vested interests and pocketbook policies that benefit the most powerful multinational firms.

Yesterday marked “#OurFirstStand” to defend the affordable care act, today we start with all hands on deck in the spirit of service beyond ourselves.

Never has it been so important and necessary to watchdog freedoms and uphold the moral compass of our nation given the bankrupt ethics of a loophole laden ‘leader’ with his unhinged, unsafe rhetoric and narcissistic ego-stroking rallies that serve as a constant reminder of just how much we need each and every citizen to take a day ON not off in service of human rights, dignities, science, and health..

Pick a topic any topic, we need help with all… As I work with wildlife rehab and volunteer to help the most fragile ecosystems and endangered inhabitants of the planet and see the grinning trophy hunting Trump offspring with dead wildlife as a photo opportunity, it’s one of many ongoing reminders that repel me and motivate me…See you out there… #MLKDay

Flashback/Time Travel: Original Post ’09:

I love the concept of the Obama family doing the ‘ordinary citizen’ bit by rolling up their sleeves and jumping into their new neighborhood’s many issues in Washington D.C., AND using social media (cool Facebook app here) to show people via USA and Google map how YOU can volunteer in your OWN local community.

Using the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.” Here’s the official MLK site complete with radio PSAs featuring Dr. King’s voice, latest news feeds, media and mobilization for what’s shaping up to be the largest effort ever.

Yah, yah, I know, I’m an idealist, yadayada, the kids want to spend their holiday sledding in the snow or whatever, but I say put a viral ‘youth action’ spin on it so kids can make a difference meeting like-minded peer to peer positive influence and you’ve got a teen scene social nudge capable of sparking the ‘hope and change’ fuel everyone seems so longing to ignite!

Personally, I’m hoping this is a sign of an era of hands-on, ‘make no excuses’ accountability, where youth and parents meet on the same page to quit power-whining and DO something if they don’t like what they see…

I was always a fan of Colin Powell’s America’s Promise, and his ability to form alliances across party lines. I’ve been fortunate to hear him speak several times advocating for a universal call to service which always has made SO much common sense to me.

Beyond charisma, poise and intellect, Powell and Obama join Dr. King himself in cycle-breaking efforts to get people off their duffs to mobilize and (dare I say it?) ‘Just do it.’

Granted, Congress passed the King Holiday and Service Act in 1994 making it a national day of volunteer service, but have YOU heard about it?

C’mon, it’s been over a decade, after all!

I’d say it’s only been THIS year that the brand new USA site and viral video smart mob crew of social media has piqued the nation’s interest beyond the ‘usual suspects’ of ‘Have Fun, Do Good’-ers and the youth empowerment posse! Whether it’s a local eco-clean up or an inner-city painting project, I love the whole notion of keeping it relevant by keeping it close to home.

One of the things that’s always irked me about service project deployment is that many stereotype volunteering as being only about ‘underserved areas’ and ‘risky business’ which often creates a needless chasm of conflict between “exposure vs. need” where kids are concerned.

Often you end up with either “nervous-nellies” patting themselves on the back like they’ve entered some commando-condition fortress, or do-gooders who can’t necessarily relate to the community’s experience as a whole.

I even include myself in that last crew, recalling one of my counter-marketing sessions with 5th graders using cookie cutters to ‘build a healthier Lunchable’ only to find the whole class staring at me blankly during the hands-on phase. (um, oops; they’d never even SEEN cookie cutters before, much less know what to do with them)

So rather than get service helpers who ‘boldly go where no one’s gone before’ only to become conversational fodder, rarely to enter the environs again, kids can do a great job in their OWN communities dispelling myths and legends to boot. (‘yes, Sally Surbanite, there are schools in need locally in non-urban pockets too, and even youth homeless, etc.)

So…check out the Find an Event/USA maps and resources of what’s going on in YOUR local community. The Obama bunch has made it easy for us with turnkey social media mapping and access to a plethora of projects right in your own zip code.

Btw, this is a nonpartisan, national day of service, folks.

At left is the handy Facebook ‘choose, pledge, act, report’ process to pay it forward via social media.

I also received a solid recap of info from about the Obama administration’s goal to expand national service orgs like AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps and create new ones including:

—a Classroom Corps to help underserved schools;

—a Health Corps to serve in the nation’s clinics and hospitals;

—a Clean Energy Corps to achieve the goal of energy independence; and

—a Veterans Corps to support the Americans who serve in harm’s way.

I’m energized just seeing it put on paper for follow-through!

I love the ‘in your shoes’ format to find the right fit for your own interests and personality. It’s always been a Shaping Youth favorite, prompting kids to lose the lip-service and hop right in to the experiential, character-building, hands-on process of ‘getting it,’ with the freedom to choose what that ‘it’ may be.

After all, we’re not a ‘cookie cutter’ society.

What’s common and form fitting to some may be completely foreign and hard-edged to others. I’ve sure learned that and shaped up my own outreach efforts.

One thing I DO know about cookie cutters now is that anyone can learn to cut out a star for themselves. And they’ll feel good about doing it, too.

See you out there on Monday! What will you be doing? Want to share any of your ideas? Add links to other cool service orgs? Send ’em along…Photos too if you want?

Here are more related resources/volunteer opportunities:

Check out: VolunteerMatch, Idealist, Social Actions, Network for Good, 1-800,,, Volunteer Solutions, GuideStar, My Social

Youth Service America (ages 5-25)

Campus Kitchens Project–Teach. Reach. Feed. Lead. (great tagline!)

The King

National Youth Leadership Council

Service for Peace

Global Youth Service Day




  1. And speaking of change afoot and the new administration, wanted to add this quick list of winners from the site that they just announced in D.C. here:

    “ presents Obama Transition Team with its Ideas for Change in America

    There are four days until the Inauguration, and the country is alight with excitement, not just about the arrival of Barack Obama in the White House but also for the beginning of a new era of civic engagement.

    We’ve tapped into this energy with our Ideas for Change in America, and today we held a press event at the National Press Club in Washington DC to announce the winners of the competition. The 10 winning ideas reflect the diverse interests of the millions of people calling for change across the country, and include ideas for securing universal heath care, LGBT rights, and sustainable green energy. All winning ideas can be viewed at

    The winning ideas were accepted on behalf of the Presidential Transition Team by Macon Phillips, the Director of New Media and the person who oversees our second-favorite website, Macon then addressed the attendees of the event, which included nonprofit leaders and grassroots activists, and spoke about the importance the administration will place on citizen-driven efforts like Ideas for Change.

    With almost 8,000 ideas, more than 600,000 votes, and more than 175,000 participants, the Ideas for Change initiative has shown the widespread interest across the country in renewed civic participation and direct engagement in policymaking. And this is just the beginning. Starting next week, each winning idea will be paired up with a sponsoring nonprofit, which will begin a national campaign to translate each into actual policy. We’ll be documenting the process here at, so look out for more from us soon.”

    “Here are the winning votes: After 656,991 votes for 7,847 ideas, we present the top 10 ideas for change (in no particular order)”

  2. Why stop at one day? My favorite “geek” service organization is

    Sky’s last blog post..Small slices of computing (Slicehost) require small MySQL and Apache

  3. Thanks, Sky! I’m testing this ‘commentluv’ feature too…very cool so far…Still have my system down so am on a loaner. Anxious to get system stability soon! As we said last night, ‘Arrrrrrrr’…

    Amy Jussel’s last blog post..One Week Countdown! Vote For Your Favorite Ashoka Youth Venture!

  4. For those who don’t know -commentluv- will pick up the most recent -blog post- from YOUR blog and insert a link to it when you add a comment here at ShapingYouth. Gives you a chance to promote your own cause (or yourself) while making an intelligent comment on today’s marketing (and parenting) practices.

    This is one step above and beyond just inserting your own web/blog URL when making a comment.

    (It remains to be seen whether this will become a spam opportunity or will work out well, but we’ll just have to wait and see.)

    Sky’s last blog post..Jerry’s “Law of Convenience”

  5. Thanks, Sky…For those who aren’t familiar, Sky is our IT guru and genius behind the scenes of solving tech troubles, and/or sifting out the wacko factor in system glitches.

    So I’ll add to his clarity the following: people can ‘choose a different blog post’ of their own to feature rather than just ‘the last one’ to spread the word about a particular cause, interest, or headline…That way, you can showcase what you want to share with our readers that’s appropo!

    I look forward to discovering all kinds of interesting blogs this way…and I think we’ll be able to ‘tell’ the spam ones, as I’ll be link-checking as usual for decency/akismet issues.

    Enjoy! (p.s. testing it with this post to ‘uncheck’ the box and see if it shows zero trackback titles seamlessly, or if it leaves a shadow box.)

    Ancora Imparo! I am still learning!

  6. Amy and All,
    I took my two kids (8 and 11) to the San Mateo MLK Celebration today with a friend and her two kids. While we were there, we stood near a table where the kids colored Peace signs, MLK pictures, and created their own designs of Peace and Freedom. Soon, we were inspired to buy tickets to ride the Freedom Train to San Francisco for the MLK Celebration at the Civic Center. Wow, what a day. On a overly-filled train with people of all creed and color and many African Americans, together we sang “We Shall Overcome” and Stevie Wonder’s version of “Happy Birthday” to Martin Luther King as we rode the train. Several points in the day, tears welled-up in my eyes as I could sense the struggle for equal rights through the years rise up for such a special day of victory – seeing that Dr. King’s dream has come to be and Barack Obama will swear-in as our new President tomorrow. My service for the day was to inaugurate my children into community activism – to stand up, speak, sing, and attend purposeful events that celebrate and inspire us to be better people. It was simply amazing.
    We are change-agents and our children are learning through us.
    Happy Inauguration Day! God Bless you all!

  7. Amy,

    I am loving this blog more every minute. Thank you for finding mine so that I could find yours. I cried very happy tears watching the swearing in… surreal!


    Jeanne’s last blog post..VIDEO: ‘Jeanne’s Endo Blog’ — Any Patient Or Caregiver Who Deals With Chronic Conditions Can Probably Appreciate This Fantastic Video!

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