Community service with a smile on snowy morning

Laura Lucas

Laura Lucas

For many people, Martin Luther King, Jr., Day is a day off from school and work. This year, the day offered an alternative to sitting around and pondering what to do.

The first Martin Luther King, Jr., (MLK) Challenge saw 13 students go out to different places in the community and help out. The students gathered in the Louis and Clark room in the Union at 9 a.m. where donuts, bagels, scones, coffee and an array of juices were served. When everyone had signed in and sat down, Fedora Sutton-an assistant professor in the Plant Science and Biology/Microbiology despartments-stood up and gave a speech to help motivate everyone for the day’s activity.

“We are in a time where we have to see where the torch is passed,” said Sutton. “We are passing it to the next generation. We are all volunteers, and I congratulate you on being here today,” she said.

Sutton then spoke about legacies. “We celebrate MLK’s legacy. When we remember people, we remember the legacy,” she said. She told students to make a legacy and leave one. She said all the people who left a legacy used their words and their actions move nations.

Sutton went on to say, “We need to stop the media from distorting history. We need to transcend race and not let the media mess with our emotions.” An example she used was when Hillary Clinton got X amount of the Mexican votes from a certain state. “This information is not important,” she said.

Sutton ended by reading the last part of the Declaration of Independence and said, “Make decisions on your moral compass, and you can’t go wrong.”

When asked about her thoughts on MLK’s legacy, Sutton said, “We have come exceedingly far (with civil rights), but we still have a way to go. We have to get like-minded people together to change.”

After the speech, the students were divided up into two teams and given packets. Each group had from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. and $50 to complete their given tasks. The groups were also given a letter asking businesses to help with a donation. The packets contained the “challenge” for the day.

The first group was assigned to the Brookings Habitat for Humanity. Their “challenge” was to help paint and shingle sheds for Habitat homes and to paint signs so customers know who Habitat’s major donors are.

The second group was assigned to the United Retirement Center and Child Development Center. Their “challenge” was to plan a Hollywood style party for the URC residents and children, including refreshments, awards, decorations and a red carpet. The group had until 2 p.m. to decorate the center and had to entertain until 4 p.m.

A third group, made up of the three event coordinators, was assigned to the Brookings Community Theater. Their “challenge” was to help organize costumes and paint.

At lunch time, the groups were provided sandwiches and a reflection sheet. The reflection sheet was to help the students have a more meaningful service experience and help them better understand MLK, his legacy, the civil rights movement and the purpose of the MLK Day of Service.

At 4 p.m., the groups returned to the Louis and Clark room and shared their experiences from the day. The first group said they had painted one and a half sheds. “It was good to see how many people donate to Habitat for Humanity,” said Tanisha Sealey, a senior clinical lab science major. There were 120 names of people who donated, and all the money goes to building houses. “It’s a good thing we are doing here,” Sealey said.

The second group said they got McDonald’s, Arby’s and a few other companies to donate and ran a bit short on time with the decorations but did manage to get a red carpet. The group said there was a combination of people ages 1 to over 100. The group was also able to give free gifts and gift certificates to the winners of different games played.

“I thought it was an excellent experience. I want to do it again next year,” said Rachel Lewis, a senior biology and communications major.

“It was hard to get motivated on a snowy Monday morning,” said Lewis “but once we got started and getting to know the group members, it was very rewarding.”

#1.882931:3000561665.jpg:mlk_sb.jpg:Senior Cameron Kwon, a human development major, explains the community service activities his group participated in on Jan. 21.:Stephen Brua