During last year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day events, guest speaker Sybrina Fulton spoke on the necessity of addressing uncomfortable topics. During her speech at the Grand Valley State University Fieldhouse, Fulton’s main message to college students was to get involved with the world around them.

As we approach this year’s MLK Day as well as GVSU’s annual Teach-In, we want to propose the idea of becoming involved in societal issues once again. College is portrayed time and time again as a chance to express yourself and engage in the community around you. Now, it’s time to take a step toward capitalizing on these opportunities.

The Teach-In provides an environment for students, faculty and staff to talk about things that are often shied away from. From diversity issues to ways to deal with depression and stress, this is a great time to take the ideas you have as a student at GVSU and communicate them with others at the university. Whether engaging in the Teach-In means volunteering an idea or simply attending an informational session, participation in an event such as this will help to promote intellectual conversations throughout the GVSU community.

In the past, MLK Day has been a time to talk about issues such as gun violence, oppression and other social justice issues. With this year’s speakers including a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement and a notable television personality and novelist, this year should be no different. Even if you have never gone before, now is a great time to start immersing yourself in thought-provoking conversation. Martin Luther King Jr. Day should not be a free day off from learning. Classes may not be in session, but all Lakers should feel obligated to honor King’s memory by participating in a discussion about dreams and ideas just as big and important as his.

Listening to others talk about their experiences will open your eyes and make you more aware of why issues and movements exist, especially if you are having trouble understanding them in the first place. Going to events that GVSU hosts like the Teach-In will ultimately lend you a more critical lens through which you can view the world.

Step outside of your comfort this MLK Day, and play an active role in expanding your horizons. But it doesn’t have to stop after just one day.

Though GVSU does provide several on-campus opportunities to address these type of strenuous topics, the concept of thinking larger should be applied outside of the Laker community. Take what you’ve learned and observed at GVSU and use that knowledge to educate others and help them understand the world around them. Have these crucial conversations with your family, your friends and those you come into contact with. Hear some different points of view and most importantly: listen.

Listen to those around you, listen to those whose experiences are so different from your own that you could never imagine walking in their shoes. This is the only way to truly grow as an individual, and every single member of the Laker community should take MLK Day as the opportunity it is to start engaging in those difficult conversations.