buildOn Students Celebrate 20 Years by Taking to the Streets

On Saturday, October 15th, buildOn students from all six of our US regions – Oakland/San Francisco, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, New York, and Southwest Connecticut – celebrated our organization’s 20th anniversary by engaging with the public in awareness service. Each city’s team interpreted the milestone in their own way, and used performance, rallying, posters, and more to ask citizens everywhere how they planned to “buildOn” and give back to their communities.

150 buildOn students from California marched around Dolores Park wearing buildOn 20th Anniversary shirts, holding signs, and shouting “When I say ‘build’ you say ‘On’! Community members soon got the hang of it and when students shouted, “build!” members of the community shouted “On!” Afterward, students made human sculptures representing the path from oppression to empowerment, and handed out sandwiches to the needy in the Misson. The day finished with a buildOn birthday cake.

buildOn students marched down to the Millennium Park “bean” (giant silver bean-like sculpture) in Chicago holding signs with inspirational words like “I believe we can change the world.” Students then engaged with Chicagoans by asking them to design a fabric square for a three different quilts. People were asked “how can we serve our community?, “why is education important?”, and “what makes our community great?” as a guide for their designs. The finished quilts will then be presented as a gift to the Mayor’s office.

155 buildOn students gathered at a Detroit high school to raise awareness about buildOn and inspire the community to make change through service. At 1:10 pm they froze while holding up signs with messages reading, “I believe we can change the community,” “I believe in rebuilding and diversity,” etc. The two-minute freeze created quite a buzz in Detroit’s Eastern Market. After the freeze, the buildOn members asked the community what they believed in and recorded their thoughts and displayed them around the market.

In Philadelphia the day started with a clean-up in a very littered area, and then continued with a march down the famous South Street. Some students chanted and wore face paint to draw attention to their efforts, while others passed out business cards asking people to “buildOn” to their communities and held signs explaining what they “believe” about service.

A collection of students in Harlem, New York, started with PSA skits in Marcus Garvey Park, then marched down 125th street chanting until they came to a small public area across the street from Harlem’s culturally significant Studio Museum. They passed out business cards, held signs, and performed several chants before crowds of shoppers passing through before lunchtime. A moment of silence was held for the individuals we work with in extreme poverty overseas.

115 students met at a downtown library in Connecticut and broke up into groups. Each group organized a chant or “flash mob experience” that in some way expressed their feelings about service and about buildOn. At 10:45am, everyone performed their routines for the public and handed out business cards asking citizens how they would “buildOn”. Afterward, the students stood with “Honk for buildOn” signs on a busy street corner and spoke to several curious motorists about the buildOn message.

It was an exciting day for buildOn marking a true milestone in the organization’s growth, and our students could feel the excitement in the air. “It was an empowering day,” said one young man. “I feel like we gathered and actually made a difference in this community, and even if we didn’t make a huge difference today, I think we set up the foundation.”

“Everyone was surprised that a bunch of teenagers were in the street chanting for buildOn, for community service, for something that doesn’t just benefit us,” commented another student. “It was an amazing time here at buildOn, and it’s amazing how all the teenagers just get together and do our thing and try to help the community.”