The MLK Week of Service here at Kean University took place from Feb. 15 to Feb. 25. This span was filled with numerous service projects that provided many students with opportunities to play an instrumental role in the community. More importantly, it was a week that honored Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a man who was not only focused on civil rights but also on the community. These service projects were all organized by the Center for Leadership and Service (CLS).
The MLK Week of Service kicked off on Feb. 15 with the blood drive. Students flooded the Miron Student Center, Room 228 to give blood. The New Jersey Blood Services always encourages individuals to donate blood as it is always in demand. In fact, every three seconds, an individual undergoes a blood transfusion in the U.S. As a result, those who volunteered were able to feel a part of something bigger than themselves.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Remembrance and Vigil took place in the Martin Luther King Jr. Garden just outside the Human Rights Institute on Feb. 20. Despite being hosted by the CLS, this was not a service project. This was a way to truly set aside some time to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s venerable life. With an introduction by the CLS Managing Assistant Director Susan Figueroa, the floor opened up to the Office of Africana Study's Director James Conyers, Ph.D., followed by a handful of KU Poetry Club members who recited both pieces of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and themselves. For more of an in-depth look at this event, read last week's article here.
On Feb. 21, the CLS and the Jumpstart Program took volunteers on a trip to Bernice's Place, an after-school and summer program for homeless and at-risk children. At Bernice's Place, the children in the program are being provided for in terms of a solid education and a friendly environment. Here volunteers did a bevy of activities with the children including an interactive game board, a matching puzzle of King and other civil rights leaders, and a painting activity. Moreover, they read the book My First Biography: Martin Luther King, Jr. to children to inform them of the positive influence that King had on the world. At the end, volunteers offered the students gifts, which were created at another service event on Feb. 14.
On Feb. 22, the CLS orchestrated a trip to the New Eyes for the Needy headquarters in New Jersey. New Eyes for the Needy is a non-profit organization that aims to enhance the vision of the less fortunate. This organization purchases prescription eye glasses through a voucher program for men, women and children in the United States who cannot afford glasses of their own. This event proved to be an eye-opening experience for the volunteers as they sorted through packed glasses for the organization to distribute to those in need.
Two service projects took place on Feb. 24: a trip to the Arc of Union County and a trip to the Community Foodbank of New Jersey. The Arc of Union County Inc. is another non-profit organization with a focus on enriching the lives of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Volunteers helped out with the weekend respite program which offers support families with a member who suffers from a disability. Volunteers also participated in a handful of social activities with the children and adults.
For the Community Foodbank trip, the CLS and the volunteers successfully packaged many meals for the mobile pantries of the Community Foodbank of New Jersey, which ultimately assisted many people in need across the state.
Last but certainly not least, the Adopt-A-Park service project occurred on Feb. 25. In the early morning, volunteers tagged along with the CLS to clean up the parks in conjunction with the Union County Parks Environmental Specialists. With the temperature being in the mid-40s, it proved to be a pleasant day to remove litter and other junk that are often scattered across parks.
Overall, the MLK Week of Service was a phenomenal time that truly was beneficial not only to students but also to the community. It painted a beautiful picture of how Kean University, the CLS, and its students truly recognize the importance of teaming up with the community to evoke huge differences. Moreover, it properly encapsulated the spirit of King and revered his legacy.