CCE shifts control of MLK Jr. Day of Service to student organizers for 2021

Last year’s on-campus MLK Jr. Day of Service included a community celebration with music and speeches in addition to service opportunities throughout the day.

Photo by Sarah Navy

Lawrence’s Center for Community Engagement and Social Change (CCE) has hosted Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service events for many years. This year, they hope to make a meaningful change by asking students to propose ideas for service opportunities.

Students and student organizations are encouraged to propose ideas and lead events, rather than choose from options created solely by the CCE as in past years. The CCE is looking for proposals for both virtual and in-person events that comply with Lawrence’s COVID-19 safety guidelines so that all students can find a way to be involved.

Senior Papo Morales, Resource Outreach Manager of the CCE, came up with the idea for the new format and is leading planning efforts for the day. 

“This year, we really wanted to center it around student initiatives,” Morales said. “… So, how it works is students will come to us and say, ‘Hey, I want to have this event on MLK day,’ and we will work with them to make sure the event is provided with materials, scheduled properly [and] run properly … Students are going to be the ones who are providing the content of the day, and the CCE will provide the logistics.”

In order to propose an event, students only need to describe it, decide if it will be virtual or in-person, request materials and explain why they feel the event is appropriate for MLK Jr. Day. Proposals are due by the end of the term. They will then be addressed and further planned with assistance from the CCE and its partners over winter break.

“We’re not looking for the most creative events or the most clever,” Morales said. “We’re looking for events that students are really passionate about and that they feel work with MLK Day.”

This change comes with the struggles presented by COVID-19 to host safe community events with Appleton partners. However, Morales hopes that this new format will encourage students to think differently about the ways they can make an impact this MLK Jr. Day, especially given that there are fewer opportunities for safe community engagement at this time. 

“I think this year, we’re trying to foster the spirit of social change,” he said. “It’s a powerful day for many people; it’s a powerful day for people of color on campus. I really wanted to embrace it and really take it there.”

Beyond that, the change allows for students to have more involvement in planning and leading service events on campus. 

“We want to make sure that students have a day that they themselves want to see happen, and that we don’t assume what they need, especially in the racial climate we’re in now,” Morales said. “I think that, as the world has its ebbs and flows, Lawrence students should be a strong factor in the sorts of events that they want to see on this day. We always say it’s a ‘day on,’ but Lawrence students should really get to choose what that day on looks like.”

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