The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Jun 15, 2011

First Lady, Washington volunteers and Knight build playground today in D.C.

Posted by Damian Thorman, J.D.

Above: Kaboom! volunteers work on a playground today in Washington D.C.

By Damian Thorman (bio)

I'm here in Washington, D.C. to build a playground with the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama. As you may know, Knight Foundation is all about informed and engaged communities. Today's KaBOOM! build is also about engaging community.

The build is at Imagine Southeast Public Charter, a beacon of hope in a very challenged neighborhood. While the school has been open for a while now, it has necessarily focused inward to adjust to its new home and build a strong education foundation for the kids attending the school. The KaBOOM! build has provided the school an opportunity to connect with the surrounding community and engage them. As part of the build process, KaBOOM! reaches into the community and involves the surrounding neighborhoods in the design and building of the playground. The process is more about building community than building a playground. The idea is that at the end of the process, everyone involved will have experienced being engaged in their community, which we hope engenders a desire to continue to be involved.

Today's build is exciting for many reasons. First, it's the 14th build funded by Knight Foundation – and the 2,000th build for KaBOOM!. That's an extraordinary accomplishment for the organization and tens of thousands of community residents they have engaged over the past 15 years. It is also extraordinary because the First Lady of the United States will be here to lend a hand and her voice to the importance of an engaged community. Finally, the build is also part of the annual day of service for the U.S. Congress. Dozens of members of Congress are expected to attend and participate in the build along with the First Lady.

I'm most excited about what will be left behind for this emerging community. I had a chance to sit down with the principal of the school a few weeks ago and talk about what this process has meant for her. She spoke eloquently about how her students had used this build as an opportunity to connect with the surrounding community, by going into local businesses asking everyone to participate.

This is what engaging communities is all about. I can't wait to see the students and the community members come together today to build their community, and I can't wait to see what else they will do in the future as a result of feeling empowered to act.


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