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September 21, 2023

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Students participate in Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service Challenge

Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service Challenge

Anastasia Sweet’s dream is to affect major change in the world.

Sweet, a junior majoring in psychology, volunteered at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service Challenge for the first time Monday. Sweet said she wanted to volunteer instead of just having the day off like in previous years.

“It defeats the purpose of having a day off if you’re not doing something productive to advance his dream,” Sweet said.

Sweet was one of approximately 520 students who volunteered for Martin Luther King Jr. Day this year, said Sakina Trevathan, director of the event. This is the fifth year the University has participated in the Challenge, but the sixth year it has hosted an event for the holiday, Trevathan said.

For Sweet, the day has a lot of meaning.

“The day means that I can go to college,” Sweet said. “It means I can do a lot of things I wouldn’t be able to do if he didn’t pave the way for equal rights.”

The event was hosted by the University Office of Service Learning and Civic Action Now.

The University worked with about 47 community partners this year, Trevathan said. Part of the goal of the day was to encourage students to get involved in the community, she said.

“[It’s important] to build lifelong citizens so service isn’t something you do for just an hour a day, it’s something you do the rest of your life,” Trevathan said. “I hope [students] continue to be engaged.”

Chris Diefenthaler, director of the American Red Cross of Wood County, hosted volunteers for the second year to paint the inside of the kitchen cabinets.

“Painting is something a little more hands on,” Diefenthaler said. “They seemed to enjoy it last year.”

Diefenthaler said volunteers are important to the Red Cross.

“The Red Cross has a long history of utilizing volunteers,” she said. “It’s how the Red Cross gets things done.”

Volunteers also helped out at a new branch of the Children’s Resource Center. The branch hasn’t opened yet, so University volunteers joined with local high school students to help paint it, said Steve Jackson, coordinator of Youth and Young Adults in Transition Programs at the Center.

“We thought it would be a good opportunity for youths to get involved with individuals who are already in college,” Jackson said. “They can be exposed to life after high school.”

Senior Cierra Henderson has been participating in the Day of Service Challenge since she was a freshman, and this year she decided to be a site leader.

The day is important to Henderson, because her grandmother was in the Million Man March with Martin Luther King Jr.

“It’s always a really good day for my family because of knowing they participated in that,” Henderson said.

University students also helped the Wood County Park District build a boardwalk for one of the park wetlands.

“We thought it would be fun for them,” said Eric Scott, stewardship specialist for the Wood County Park District. “We feel it’s great that people want to give back for MLK Day, we want to give people a chance to do it.”

London Hollins helped build the boardwalk to earn service hours for her sorority with some of her Delta Xi Phi sorority sisters, but the day also means something to her.

“It means a lot to me mostly because I’m somewhere down the line related to Martin Luther King Jr.,” she said. “It means a lot to my family that I’m out here doing this.”

Through building the boardwalk, Hollins learned more about teamwork.

Hollins wasn’t the only one who learned a possibly valuable lesson from the day of service, Sweet also learned something from the day and the people involved.

“[I learned] to always be willing and open to helping no matter what the situation may be like,” Sweet said.

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