MLK Day of Service

Lydia McFarlane, Co-News Editor

On January 16, 2023, the University celebrated its sixteenth annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service. Through service opportunities on and off campus, students and participants honored Martin Luther King’s visions of peace and social justice on the national holiday commemorating his birthday and his legacy. Almost 15 years ago, a group of Black students was inspired to move volunteer efforts off campus to give back to their respective home communities. Fifteen years later, it has grown into a collaborative volunteer effort on campus and in the surrounding area, and into Philadelphia communities as well. 

University members were able to volunteer on campus or in the greater Philadelphia area for the event. For this year’s event, volunteers serviced more than fifteen locations throughout the area. Volunteer groups participated in work such as serving food or rejuvenating churches, all activities meant to highlight Dr. King’s legacy and values. 

The University also hosted a donation drive from January ninth through the sixteenth to benefit the Bethesda Project, a nonprofit organization with 15 locations across Philadelphia dedicated to providing shelter and other services to adults experiencing homelessness in the area. The donation list requested donations of winter apparel, small snack bags and toiletries. Donations for the Bethesda Project were collected in the Talley Center lobby, as well as at the men’s and women’s basketball games on January 14th  and 16th.

With the semester starting on Tuesday, January 17th due to the holiday observing Dr. King’s birthday on the previous day, many students came back to campus a bit early to serve with friends and community members for the University’s sixteenth annual MLK Day of Service. 

Senior Moroti Adewole reflected on her last year participating in the service day. She volunteered with the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority members and other nonmembers like herself that joined them in their volunteer efforts. They went to a site with a large warehouse where they organized donated classroom materials that the nonprofit, Teachers’ Teammates, would later give out to Philly teachers at a low price. 

The nonprofit is focused specifically on helping teachers in Delaware County, PA mitigate the out of pocket costs that can often come with being a teacher. For example, many teachers end up spending their own money on basic classroom supplies such as pencils, notebooks, pens and notecards. Teachers decorating their own classrooms often spend their own money out of pocket to create a classroom space their students will enjoy. Teachers’ Teammates, the nonprofit Adewole and her volunteer group worked with, aims to assist these teachers financially. 

“I 100% support the work that the organization is doing, especially since it reduces waste by taking in donations from several companies throwing out supplies and teachers get to shop at the site multiple times a year,” Adewole said. “Since supplies that teachers and parents provide from the beginning of a  school year normally run out by December, this allows for an experience that enriches the lives of teachers and their students.”

Overall, Adewole and her group enjoyed their experience. While she joked, “I wasn’t used to heavy labor like that,” she did admit the day went very well overall.

“I believe that MLK Day of Service was successful this year thanks to the MLK Day of Service committee that spread the word effectively to bring in what turned out to be a Jake Nevin room full of volunteers,” Adewole said. 

While the day went well overall for the volunteers, the committee Adewole mentioned worked hard behind the scenes to make sure the day went well. Senior Rashel Batista was this year’s president of the MLK Day of Service planning committee. Batista along with other committee members had to reach out to sites, provide necessary supplies to the sites and match volunteer groups to the sites. As president of the committee, Batista was also in charge of the subcommittees and executive board, sponsorships, publicity and registration. This year was also the first time since the pandemic hit that the Day of Service took volunteers off campus.

“We were working hard to make our first off-campus MLK Day of Service since 2020 the best it could be,” Batista said. 

Batista also reflected on her time volunteering with MLK Day of Service and being a part of the committee.

“My experience with the MLK Day of Service was amazing and it helped me in my journey,” Batista said. “I was the administrative assistant of the e-board and this year I was able to be the president. This experience has helped me become the leader that I am today and has helped me grow.” 

Batista and other members of the committee reflected on the success of this year’s MLK Day of Service and want to encourage students to continue to volunteer. Batista wants other students to share her love for the day and for service in general as a way to give back.

“MLK Day of Service means to me that people care about making MLK Day a day ‘on,’ not a day ‘off’ to give back to community and take care of [one] another,” Batista said.