Alarm ringing on Saturday morning, I groggily emerged from my bed. Although waking up at 8:15 is not favorable for a Saturday, I was eager to participate in the York Road Initiative as a member of Lambda Pi Eta, Loyola’s Communications Honor Society. However, because of the dangerous and unsafe environment that many associate with the York Road, I was a little uneasy going into it.
The York Road Initiative states that their goal is to take a leadership role in improving the quality of life for all people who reside in, work on, or are related to York Road in any way. They focus mainly on the education and well-being of the residents, providing programs that allow Loyola students to teach at schools as well as service days to strengthen the community and continue its growth.
This was my first time participating in the York Road Service program, so I wasn’t exactly sure what it would entail. However, in high school I was very into service, and took a 10-day trip (through the World Challenge program) to Costa Rica along with some of my peers to help improve a community in the Tinamu` area. This trip was extremely eye-opening, and left me with a completely new view on the world. It exposed me to how a third-world country is extremely different in many aspects from the United States.
Excited to give back to the Baltimore community, I ventured across campus to meet with the rest of the volunteers and find out the project options for the day. I was shocked to see around 100 other individuals arrive alongside me, but also grateful for the caring community of students here at Loyola. My friends and I decided to choose the project that involved picking up trash along York Road. Gloves, brooms, and garbage bags in hand, we started down the street. At first, I felt a bit awkward picking up other peoples’ trash, and even though I had gloves on, it was still a pretty gross task. Struggling to pull wrappers out of intertwined branches and weeds while on my hands and knees was just the beginning. A beautiful, old church built on the road was littered with garbage, which was particularly disturbing to me. It was difficult to comprehend how there could be this much trash on the ground when there are garbage cans on literally every street corner. From liquor bottles to an enormous amount of food wrappers and cigarette butts, I was shocked by how this community was in such close proximity to my beautiful campus.
I eventually came to realize that although many of us consider littering to be unnecessary and out of pure laziness, much of the York Road community does not hold the cleanliness of streets to such high priority. Because a good portion of the community is unemployed and below the poverty line, they are likely to be more worried about feeding their families and paying their bills then whether their trash makes it into the garbage. Because we are so privileged to be at a prestigious university like Loyola, it is important that we help others who are unable to help their community since they must put the well-being of their friends and families first.
Numerous residents of York Road thanked us for our work. Many praised us while driving by, or exclaimed “God Bless You!” in passing. Some even volunteered to help clean with us. I concluded that many of them may want to better their neighborhood and the environment, but don’t have the means to do so, or don’t know where to begin. I am thankful that Loyola has developed a program like this one to help strengthen the York Road community, and hopefully immense improvements will be seen in the years to come. I am glad to have had this opportunity, and hope to do so again. If you are looking for service opportunities, I highly suggest the York Road clean up days, which will leave you with a feeling of success and hope for the future.
To check out more about the York Road Initiative, click here, or watch this video on the purpose of the initiative 🙂