Student service honors Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Grace Berchem

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, students across campus participated Monday in the Day of Service hosted by the Volunteer and Community Service Center.
Students were sent to various sites to complete service projects.
Altogether, the day of service involved 11 different nonprofit organizations, including the Appleton Housing Authority, Boys & Girls Club, Edison Elementary, Harmony Café Heckrodt Wetland Reserve, The History Museum at the Castle, The Housing Partnership and Valley New School.
Projects included cleaning at the Fox Valley Emergency Shelter, putting together Martin Luther King Jr. bulletin boards at the Fox Valley Boys & Girls Club, sorting donations at Harbor House and cooking a meal for the residents at COTS Men’s Shelter.
Marie Straquadine, volunteer events coordinator at the VCSC, said of her experience, “Learning more about the Emergency Shelter helped me realize that even though homelessness is a problem in Appleton, people are doing something very positive to combat it.”
Straquadine added, “I hope that volunteers from Lawrence came away from the day with the same message and felt encouraged to volunteer again after learning how their afternoon of service will benefit others.”
The biggest service project took place at Edison Elementary with 30 student volunteers. Lawrence students went into the classrooms to teach the students about human rights. Marika Straw, the VCSC’s LARY Program Coordinator, put together three different age-appropriate lesson plans that were implemented in classrooms.
Erica Asbell said, “I thought it was a good experience to give back to kids who were learning about diversity for the first time. The program was really amazing.”
Sylwia Matlosz, social justice programs coordinator at the VCSC, added, “It was inspiring to hear students thinking about these concepts that Martin Luther King Jr. embodied and promoted – no violence, no racism, just peace.”
Staff from the VCSC played a large part in the planning of the programs.
“This year we saw our biggest numbers yet. Last year, there were around 120 volunteers. This year there were closer to 200,” said Matlosz.
This is attributed in large part to increased outreach to faculty and staff, who participated in much greater numbers this year. In addition, there was more participation amongst student organizations, athletic teams and Greek organizations.
Matlosz added, “It was really amazing to see the diversity of the students all coming together to make a difference in the community.”
The Martin Luther King Day of Service is one of the VCSC’s biggest events of the year. It has become a tradition on campus and a point of pride for the Lawrence Community.
A volunteer fair followed the service projects as part of the
day’s events. 20 local non-profit
organizations and five service-focused groups were represented at the fair. In addition, the VCSC had tables promoting their volunteer opportunities.
“Students came back from their sites and could learn about further opportunities. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is only one day, but students came back excited and motivated to get involved,” said Matlosz in regard to the event’s success.
The volunteer fair offered the Lawrence community and Fox Valley area organizations the opportunity to come together over various volunteer opportunities and projects.
Participant Alyssa Stephenson said, “As president of Bombsquad, I was very happy to see such a great turnout at the volunteer fair. Not only were a number of Lawrence students there, but also high school students, alumnae and local volunteers in the community. Many groups offered collaborations with other volunteer groups in their area.”
During the volunteer fair, students also had the chance to listen to presentations given by last year’s four recipients of the Summer Volunteer Opportunity Grant, which provides financial assistance for students wishing to pursue a service project over the summer months. It includes both volunteer work in the U.S. and abroad. This grant is open to all returning Lawrence students.
The Summer Volunteer Opportunity Grant has funded a wide range of different service projects. Recipients are selected based on applications, which include a proposal paper from the student about their planned service project. Applications are available online and in the Volunteer and Community Service Center for interested students.
There are still plenty of opportunities for those that were either unable to attend or want to get even more involved. The VCSC also offers Saturdays of Service throughout the year, which are always one-time service opportunities. Further information about upcoming events or ongoing opportunities can be found in the Volunteer and Community Service Center, which is located on the second floor of Raymond House.