Community Service Learning Center to host MLK Jr. Day of Service and Solidarity

Courtesy GVSU

Courtesy GVSU

Elyse Greenwood

On Wednesday, Jan. 16, college campuses across the nation will rally together to serve their community in honor of the legacy of civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

To celebrate the end of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Week, Grand Valley State University will be one of many campuses providing students the opportunity to volunteer on MLK Jr. Day of Service and Solidarity. The Community Service Learning Center and the MLK Week Executive Planning Committee have partnered together to organize this 33rd annual day of service at GVSU. The day will begin with a keynote presentation about Dr. King’s legacy and community involvement, and it will end with students travelling to one of 9 participating non-profits that serve those in the west Michigan area.

Last year, 157 students participated in this event. The importance of this day is twofold.

“This event is important because not only is it honoring the life and legacy of Dr. King, but it also empowers students to think about who they are in the context of their community, power and privilege and what they can do to make the world a better place and treat others how they want to be treated,” said Graduate Assistant for Civic and Community Engagement and event organizer Tatiana Parsons.

A few of the non-profit organizations involved are 20 Liters, The Grand Rapids Red Project and Inner-City Christian Federation. Volunteer work for these organizations range from assembling water filters and cleaning syringes to helping with finishing touches on a home for a local family. 

“I’m most excited to see the campus community come together to learn more about the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as well their community around them,” said Assistant Director of the Community Service Learning Center Liz Collver.

One of the goals of this day of service is to motivate students to make bettering the community a part of their daily lives. Students will be equipped with the necessary knowledge to not only be volunteers, but to become an active citizen where community becomes a priority in values and life choices. 

“Our goal in these days of service are to meet students in the volunteer stage so that they can start to explore the conscientious citizen stage,” Parsons said. “We know that students won’t go from zero to 100 after one day of service, but we’d like to start those conversations and get the ball rolling for students to find out what being an active citizen means to them.”

The day starts at 8:30 a.m. in the Cook-Dewitt chapel for registration and the keynote presentation. Transportation to the non-profit organizations and a lunch will be provided. Volunteer work will last from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and a last discussion about what service learning means to them and how it relates to MLK Jr.’s legacy will follow. Buses will drop students back off at campus at 3:30 p.m. Online registration for this event is encouraged, but walk-ins are welcomed as space provides. 

“I love that single day events like these can be stepping stones for further engagement in the community,” Parsons said. “Someone might be introduced to a non-profit that they have never heard of before and find new passions and ways to get involved that they may have otherwise never knew they were interested in.”