Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. famously stated "Life's most persistent and urgent question is: what are you doing for others? " For many people, it's a day of remembrance for his contributions to the civil rights movement; however, this is simply not enough. To truly fulfill Dr. King's legacy, it must be a day of service where we venture into our communities to pay it forward. It is our duty to make MLK day a "Day On, Not A Day Off.
The federal government has spearheaded this initiative as a part of United We Serve in conjunction with the Corporation for National & Community Service and The King Center. This initiative asks for all Americans from all backgrounds to collaborate to provide solutions to our country's most critical issues.
Some colleges and universities are really leading the effort to make this a day of service. Forty universities nationwide received grant funding from the Campus Compact to expand service programming for MLK day. West Virginia University is among one of the forty universities to receive funding. Leah Cunningham, Operations Coordinator at West Virginia University's Center of Service and Learning says "This national service holiday is a great opportunity to become involved. It provides students a chance to travel outside of Morgantown, and experience one of the best things West Virginia has to offer... its people."
Students will be volunteering in Charleston, Grafton, Fairmont, and Morgantown, West Virginia. Cunningham anticipates over 100 WVU students to participate amounting to 1,000 service hours.
Director of the WVU's Center of Service and Learning, Dr. Kristi Wood-Turner stresses the importance of service, particularly in a higher education environment. Dr. Wood-Turner notes, "MLK Day allows us to help students connect the reason we serve with the direct impact on communities." Service learning truly enriches one's education by exploring interests and honing certain skills outside of one's regular curriculum. It compliments the knowledge students are getting in class and provides great perspective for how one's degree affects everyone.
Dr. Wood-Turner opined, "Higher Education has a responsibility to educate students not only on the theories of today but on the evolution of tomorrow and what that may bring. Service to community plants the seeds of critical thinking and progressive design that is necessary in careers of tomorrow."
Whether it's with a group of friends, a local organization, a university or the like, let's ensure that it's not a day off.
Dr. King notably proclaimed, "The time is always right to do what is right." Today, and every day, is a great opportunity to serve your communities as an engaged citizen. We should all actively live his legacy through service, as every day is a great day to make a difference.