Making Martin Luther King Day a “day on

Sylwia Matlosz

Building cabinets, talking to local elementary school students about diversity, making Valentine decorations with the elderly, preparing a lasagna dinner and cleaning out storage rooms may not fit in a typical college student’s to-do list.
However, Jan. 19, 2009, over 70 Lawrence students gave back to the community through such acts of goodwill, commemorating Martin Luther King Jr.’s passion for serving others.
The group of students spent about three hours of their time at eight agencies in the Appleton community, volunteering and learning about the services provided.
Among the sites was COTS, Inc. men’s shelter, where students organized the storage room, disposing of expired food. “I was very impressed and inspired by the student’s willingness to learn about COTS and their desire to help,” said Executive Director of COTS Todd Sutton.
Other sites’ supervisors also observed passion among the Lawrence students who gave their time. Much to the delight of the staff at the Fox Valley Literacy Coalition, the students who participated in a workshop on literacy and ESL tutoring expressed great enthusiasm about teaching an adult how to read or speak English.
At Edison Elementary School, 26 students led a diversity lesson prepared by sophomore Megan Luedtke, LARY Buddy coordinator. For the students at Edison – many of them coming from disadvantaged backgrounds – the lesson was a chance not only to learn about diversity, but also to interact with Lawrence University students, whom Edison students will remember as role models and friends.
“Edison may be the neighborhood school ‘where every student shines,’ but these students cannot shine so bright without the support of role models and mentors smiling at them and encouraging them to dream,” Luedtke reflected.
Since the lesson, Edison students have begun to share with her their dreams, shaped by their interaction with Lawrentians, to “go to Lawrence to become ‘people who can change the world and help others.'”
For many students, the service opportunities provided were a way to get involved and give back to the community. Other sites included the emergency shelter, the Appleton Housing Authority, COTS Women’s Shelter, Harmony Café and Pioneer Village.
To further promote education for informed civic engagement, a volunteer fair, held in Riverview Lounge, featured representatives from 16 area agencies.
Afterwards, presentations on summer volunteer opportunity grants were held in the Barber Room by past grant recipients, who discussed their volunteer experiences.
These service activities were coordinated by the staff of Lawrence’s Volunteer and Community Service Center, which is made up of seven students and two professional staff members.
Located on the second floor of Raymond House, the VCSC is a resource for students who are looking to get involved during the school year and beyond.
For those interested in ongoing volunteer projects, the VCSC coordinates VITAL, a tutoring program in which Lawrence students tutor students from Appleton area schools, and LARY Buddies, a mentoring program which matches Lawrence students with Edison Elementary school students.
In addition to these opportunities, the VCSC seeks to encourage and promote volunteerism with community and other campus-based projects – both short-term and long-term.
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, the Volunteer and Community Service Center encouraged students to make a day with no classes “a day on, not a day off.”To learn more about how you can make more of your days on by helping others, visit the volunteer center Web page at http://www.lawrence.edu/dept/student_dean/volunteer/ or e-mail volunteer@lawrence.edu.

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