Fulfilled. Interested. Energized. Strong. Inspired.
These were words that students used to describe their experiences after participating in the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning’s MLK Jr. Day of Service on Saturday, January 20. Over 50 Illinois State students volunteered their time at the YWCA McLean County to paint, organize, and clean in the Childcare Center.
The day of service began with pre-reflection at the Bone Student Center before traveling to the service site. Here, students reflected on various quotes from Martin Luther King Jr., and how his words resonated with the service they would be participating in throughout the day. Students shared about the importance of serving others, noting that what is good for others ultimately benefits everyone.
Illinois State student Michelle Hunt said she enjoyed “serving YWCA on the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service because they’re such a crucial pillar in this community. They serve the underserved and work to eradicate racism and poverty in Bloomington-Normal, which is completely in line with MLK Jr’s mission. It’s inspired me to not just give back more regularly to the community, but focus on what I can do to eliminate poverty and racism around me.”
This tie between service and social justice was a key focus throughout the day. During lunch, the YWCA presented on the mission of the organization, which is to “promote peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all.” They also covered topics such as privilege and oppression, encouraging students to continue to enact social change in their communities.
Paige Buschman, graduate assistant for the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning, explained that the purpose behind MLK Jr. Day of Service is to “celebrate the work MLK did for all of humanity, but especially marginalized people, by doing service. We aimed to work with an organization whose mission specifically seeks to serve people of color. We think it’s important to discuss the social issues behind the service we do. When we’re volunteering, we’re not just giving time or helping people; hopefully we’re also working to dismantle systems of oppression by supporting organizations that make change in our community and support people who are systemically disadvantaged.”
In addition to the experiential learning that days of service provide for students, these opportunities also build upon strong community partnerships. Staff members from the YWCA expressed a great appreciation for the work that was done during MLK Jr. Day of Service, and have already made plans for students to return for future service projects. Liz German, Vice President of Operations, said that “the hundreds of dollars saved through this service can now be put towards other programs that will benefit the Bloomington-Normal community.”
The Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning offers multiple opportunities for students to volunteer throughout the academic year. Other programs include Alternative Breaks, Bring it Back to Normal, September Service Saturdays, Trick or Treat for Change, Serving those who Served, and Holiday Helper.