When Jada Wright stood in front of about 300 volunteers at the Crispus Attucks Association Monday, her words were bittersweet.

As she read her poem, "A Dream," inspired by Martin Luther King Jr., she pricked her fellow youth with harsh truths about their generation.

"We went from high school diplomas to being sentenced five to 10," she said. "Only to turn around and do it all over again."

Wright is 18, but she speaks with the poise and assertion of a grown woman. The York City resident said she was inspired to write a poem for the association's 32nd annual MLK Day of Service because she wanted to stress the year's theme: "There's More to Be Done."

"We can always do better," she said.

Too often, youth fall victim to violence, sexual recklessness and drugs, Wright said, and she wants kids in York to be able to grow up and live safely. You don't have to follow bad people, she said -- you can be a leader.

"This isn't it. We can do better, and it can get better," she said. "You never get tired of doing the right thing."

A day to serve: Although there's more to be done, hundreds of volunteers set out Monday on several service projects, from cleaning up the streets to feeding the homeless. At Crispus Attucks, the Day of Service included speakers, entertainment and breakfast for volunteers.

"It is a holiday for us, but it's also a day for us to give back," said Holly Gould, project manager for the organization.

She said she's excited to see the community working together, but volunteering should be a year-round endeavor.

"I would like to see the community come together like this more often," she said.

Nieisha Hawkins was one of the volunteers who packed about 400 lunches for residents of the Bell Family Shelter, which serves homeless families.

"I love giving back to the community," she said.

Hawkins, 40, of Emigsville has volunteered at Crispus Attucks for years, she said. On Monday, she brought her youngest daughter, Zeyonie, because volunteering should be a family affair, she said.

"If we do it, young people do it. If they can start doing good for themselves, they can start doing good for others," she said.

For Zeyonie, 12, volunteering on MLK Day is a bit different and more fun because all the cultures come together to serve.

"I like helping people," she said. "It's a lot of fun."

-- Reach Mollie Durkin at mdurkin@yorkdispatch.com.