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A Day to Pause and Reflect: Service Is a Sure-footed Path to Justice

MLK Day of Service 2017

In honor of the late civil rights leader, Community College of Philadelphia students and staff took part in the Martin Luther King (MLK) Day of Service on January 16, 2017, at Girard College — a city-wide signature event.

Nearly 5,000 volunteers from organizations across the city took part in 250 service projects throughout the day. Elected officials also attended, and Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and Gov. Tom Wolf spoke to the crowd. College President, Dr. Donald Guy Generals, and Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Chief of Staff, Dr. Judith Gay, led the volunteers from the College, including 13 student ambassadors and two student government leaders.

Student ambassadors came up with the ideas for the six projects that were used during the event. A number of them worked for months ahead of the day of service, as they had to consider their works’ impact, timeliness and inclusiveness.

Volunteers who dropped by the College’s student-manned table had their choice of activities: some wrote Valentine’s Day cards for seniors and decorated socks for them; others wrote letters of thanks to President Obama for his service; while others created coloring books of famous Philadelphians, shared peace bracelets and left a one-word message of kindness on a peace wall.

Shalee Hill, a student ambassador project leader, said she enjoyed watching the young people in the crowd practicing the tenets of exemplary citizenship and interacting with diverse neighbors.

“I learned that across the racial and religious gamut people can help for the sole purpose of serving others,” said Hill, citing the example of a Muslim women she met who visited the College’s table and wrote many cards.

On a personal level, the peace wall was Hill’s favorite activity. “I wrote like 10 words on the peace wall,” Hill exclaimed. “I was so excited about this wall; I kept writing.”

Jenavia Weaver, coordinator of the Student Leadership and Involvement Center, has organized the MLK Day of Service at the College for the last 15 years. Upon an invitation from Girard College, she and other members of Community College of Philadelphia have been participating at the city's signature site for service for the last 7 years. This year, the Student Ambassador program, the Student Government Association and Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society each provided student representatives.

"We do it because we understand what service means," said Weaver during an interview she did with a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter. "If we could all do a little more service for others, the world would be a better place.”

Hill echoed a similar thought, insisting that she carries lessons of love and service from the experience to her family and neighborhoods.

“If you have a service attitude, you want solve problems,” Hill noted. “I like to serve because what I get out of it in return is more than what I give.”

By day’s end at Community College Philadelphia table, more than 100 socks were decorated, nearly 200 Valentine’s Day cards were written and 150 personalized letters with messages were ready to go to President Obama to thank him for his eight years of service.

Many seniors at the nearby Watermarks Retirement Community received a package composed of a card, sock and handmade bracelet.