“Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.”
In celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s commitment to community building, approximately 150 students and faculty members participated in the MLK Day of Service on Saturday, volunteering at sites in the Evanston and greater Chicago area.
“The Day of Service is the ‘action’ part of this weekend,” said Andrea Bell, coordinator of student community service at the Center for Student Involvement. “It’s a way of putting MLK’s teachings into practice. This is a time for students to not just hear speakers and see performances but to actually act and live out the legacy of Dr. King.”
Volunteers were sent to one of seven sites, including the Alexian Brothers AIDS Ministry, Evanston Public Library, YWCA and the Recyclery Collective.
Medill senior Eryn Rogers helped sort merchandise at the Brown Elephant resale shop, whose revenue funds services for 50% of underinsured Howard Brown Health Center patients. She also participated in the Day of Service her freshman year, organizing and cleaning classrooms at an Evanston elementary school.
“I’m from Atlanta and have always done some sort of program or service to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy,” Rogers said. “I wanted to come back to the Day of Service this year – I really did enjoy my time the last time I participated.”
McCormick junior Lauren Miller was assigned to Asian Youth Services in Chicago, where she helped elementary school students make posters for their upcoming science fair.
“One of the site directors told us that though it seems like a small task to connect with kids for one day, ultimately we were helping them finish something they could use to show their teachers, and themselves, that they can do a good job,” Miller said, “and hopefully that inspired them to do a good job in the future, to make that a habit.”
The Day of Service was meaningful not only in the context of honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. but also in the broader sense, of reaching out to the community, Miller said.
“It’s easy to get caught up in schoolwork,” Miller said. “It’s really important to step aside once in awhile and do something that’s not required. Help out a group that is less privileged or might not have had the same upbringing.”
For next year’s Day of Service, Bell plans to find sites that can accommodate more student volunteers at a time.
“Part of the value of this is for student groups to come together and get to know each other,” Bell said.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day activities will continue Monday, beginning with a reception and speaker event featuring President Morton Schapiro and Dr. Benjamin Carson, the first and only surgeon to successfully separate Siamese twins conjoined at the back of the head.
“[Carson] embodies everything Dr. King hoped for,” Bell said. “He built on the Dream, and acted on it with purpose.”
Other events on Monday include an alumni panel discussion, staged reading of “Stick Fly” and a candlelight vigil featuring Tim King, sponsored by Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., of which Martin Luther King, Jr. was a member.