According to Bernice King, the youngest daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., 2020 was “a year of extremes” that emphasized the urgent need of creating the “beloved community.”
In celebration and remembrance of MLK Jr’s life, the Leadership and Volunteer Center and the Office for Student Involvement (OSI) co-hosted a virtual MLK day of service. The MLK service week was kicked off with a week-long virtual service project at 10 a.m. on Jan. 18.
As MLK Jr. said, “Everyone has the power for greatness, not for fame, but greatness. Because greatness is determined by service.” As part of student involvement opportunities, the MLK day of service event has been around campus for years to celebrate MLK Jr’s legacy and his vision for a better, more inclusive world.
“Our hope [is] that this event provides students, staff and community members an opportunity to not only give back to the local community, but also better connect with MLK Jr’s dream by completing projects that promote inclusion, love and helping others in need,” Jeremy Heinlein, coordinator of Leadership and Service Programs, said.
In hopes of providing students access to safe volunteer opportunities during the pandemic, this year’s event is held virtually and is live all throughout the week of Jan. 18. Its feature projects include recording diversity and inclusion audio books for local elementary schools, writing Valentine’s Day cards for children in local foster homes and various projects supporting Gleaners Food Bank.
According to Emily Bernas, graduate assistant in the Leadership and Service Center, preparing for the virtual event was more challenging as the process required careful research to find service projects that OU hasn’t proposed in the past and will guarantee safety to all participants.
Despite the difficulties she and her team faced in the process of preparation for the event, the Leadership and Volunteer Center and the OSI made sure that they also highlight local volunteer opportunities available for any students who are interested. These opportunities are hosted by non-profit organizations that provide safe environments for interested parties to volunteer.
The highlight of this event was “the sole collective focus on helping others, and working together to make the world a better place,” according to Heinlein. He hopes students were able to gain the understanding that anyone can make a difference, and if individuals worked together to create change, anything is possible.
“This event always brings me great joy to see people come together to make positive change,” he said.
As MLK Jr’s legacy holds such huge importance – especially today where we continue to experience injustice and racism – the effort of various organizations to raise awareness and recognition of his legacy are increasing.
“He carries a legacy of inclusion, actively opposing racism,” Heinlein said. “He supported communities, and the importance of supporting our fellow humans. He believed in the importance of challenging and transforming societal structures that inhibit equity in our society.”
Participating students are expected to complete the virtual formatted service projects by 1 p.m. on Friday Jan. 22, and drop off completed service projects to the window in the OSI from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For more information about the event, visit campus lab or contact Jeremy Heinlein at [email protected].