Fittingly, MLK Day provides volunteering opportunity

Students participate in MLK Day of service. Photo by Daniel Alfonzo/[email protected]

More than 50 Marquette students volunteered for the Dr. Martin Luther King Day of Service at Alexander Hamilton High School yesterday, kicking off the Office of Student Development’s MLK Days of Engagement.

The week of events includes an MLK Mass at the Joan of Arc Chapel tonight, a Soup with Substance event on Wednesday, a Community Service Fair on Thursday and an Open Mic Night on Friday.

The Day of Service was a collaborative event between the Office of Student Development and City Year Milwaukee with volunteers from Marquette and advocacy groups City Year, AmeriCorps and Public Allies. There were an estimated 400 total volunteers present.

The MLK Day of Service included five hours of what City Year development director Molly Cary called general beautification of the high school, which consists of 1,800 students.

According to Deepika Katta, a corps member of City Year Milwaukee, Hamilton was chosen because it could accommodate the most volunteers, and had a number of bare walls to beautify.

“The hallways could hold 30 volunteers — we wanted to choose a big school for MLK Day,” Katta said. “That way we could work with the most organizations, and (it was the) easiest way for us to reach the community.”

Though some took yesterday as another day of vacation, Elizabeth Roque, a freshman in the College of Business Administration, was proud to be volunteering.

“I heard about it through the Urban Scholars — it looked interesting. I had nothing to do so I said, ‘Why not try community service?’” Roque said.  “The satisfaction is that I’m helping my community and not at home doing nothing. I’m doing something beneficial.”

The Day of Service concluded with a reflection led by local spoken-word artist Dasha Kelly in preparation for the open mic night on Friday.

Carla Cadet, director of multicultural affairs at Marquette, said Kelly’s presence would allow students to think differently.

“Not only does (she) infuse how we can be socially conscious, she allows us to think about our actions in a creative way,” Cadet said.

Cadet believes the Day of Service allows volunteers to ask themselves the hard questions.

“In thinking about MLK, how are we working to keep his message in our lives and on our minds?” Cadet asked.

The volunteering created a positive atmosphere of working for others, said Alyse Pfeil, a volunteer from AmeriCorps.

“I was really excited — I didn’t know so many people were going to be here,” Pfeil said. “People were happy, and it made me really happy.”

Leslie Le Bonet, coordinator for community service programs in the Office of Student Development, said the Day of Service may allow volunteers to see the impact of their work as an integral part of the community.

“(The event) creates the ability for students to not only be men and women for others, but men and women with others,” Le Bonet said. “When the community comes together … they might see (an) impact they might not see otherwise.”

Furthermore, Marquette is not the only Milwaukee institution celebrating the legacy of MLK. On Sunday, 1,500 people attended the 28th annual MLK Birthday Celebration at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts with the theme of “Maintaining Faith in the Future.”

The event showcased cultural performances and honored MLK’s speech and writing by giving MPS students in grades 1-12 awards through speech, writing and art contests.

Officials such as U.S. Representative Gwen Moore (D-Milwaukee), Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele were present and gave brief remarks.

“MLK Day is one of my favorite holidays — it’s not created by someone who wants to sell you something. One man’s integrity created this holiday,” Moore said in her remarks.

According to a Marcus Center press release, Milwaukee and Atlanta are the only cities to have celebrated MLK’s birthday annually since 1984.