More than 100 students braved the snow to participate in the Center for Civic Engagement’s (CCE) Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service on Monday.
Tiffanie Braun, CCE community partnerships coordinator, said the overall goal of Monday’s Day of Service was to get students out and help them connect with the community.
“It’s a national day of service and it’s one of those that’s always promoted as a day on, not a day off,” she said. "Martin Luther King (Jr.) really led a life of servant leadership and wanting to get people out in their communities, to get to know their communities and so that’s what we really hope for this day.”
Despite weather conditions and this week being the first back to school, students and community members still came out to participate, she said.
However, there were some complications due to the weather. A project at Orphan Acres in Viola, Idaho, was cancelled due to road conditions, Bauer said. The women in Sigma Kappa, who were involved in the Orphan Acres project, instead helped at Gladish Community and Cultural Center and Whitman Senior Living Community.
Eight projects took place Monday, which is more than the CCE typically hosts on the MLK Day of Service.
“This was largely due to increased student demand,” Bauer said. “We had more and more students and community members calling us wanting to get involved on MLK Day and so we had to try and find additional opportunities.”
One featured project was the spring clean-up at the Palouse Discovery Science Center (PDSC).
Kisa Johnson, volunteer outreach coordinator for the PDSC, said days of service give the center the manpower to operate efficiently.
“We are almost exclusively volunteer-run,” Johnson said. “We only have three to four full-time staff members, and that is who runs the science center. We have tons of projects that we need to get done, but we just don’t have the man power to do it; it’s just a unique opportunity to have people come from the CCE and do things like deep cleaning, which is something that if our staff did alone, it would take us days or weeks.”
Spring cleaning at the PDSC also offered a way for students to connect things learned while serving with things learned in the classroom.
Junior English major Amanda Chapman said there were a lot of hands-on and visual learning techniques similar those she learned about in class.
“Wanting to be a teacher, it reminds me that I need to keep my students'interest and how they learn in mind,” she said.
Chapman said service projects also give students and faculty a chance to become better acquainted with their surrounding community.
“It creates a sense of self-awareness,” Chapman said. “If you aren’t aware of what is going on in your community then you won’t know how to better the situation.”
Senior psychology and sociology major Kirstin Koller said volunteer projects act as a link further connecting WSU and the Pullman community.
“Most students are not from Pullman and don’t know the different types of businesses,” Koller said. “The CCE not only presents the opportunity but also links you up with businesses that you wouldn’t have otherwise known about.”
In addition to the projects at the PDSC, Gladish Community and Cultural Center and Whitman Senior Living Community, there were projects at the Whitman County Humane Society, food sorting for the Palouse Cares annual food drive through the Community Action Center and socializing with residents at Aspen Park Senior Center, said Erin McIlraith, CCE marketing and communication coordinator.
“We’ve seen lot of national trends toward students wanting to get more connected and more involved in their community,” Bauer said. “I think a lot of that is evident with the Occupy Movement with people seeing inequities and things going on and they might not be able to affect change on a national scale, but they can affect change within their local community.”
Senior general studies major Brandon Howard, a CCE project leader who led a group sorting canned food for the Community Action Center, said he enjoys specific days of service because those are the days when more people get involved.
“It’s just the sense of doing something for someone else,” he said. “A lot of students say they want to be involved and back home there’s not really a whole lot of places to do that. The Center for Civic Engagement gives people the opportunity to help in ways you really can’t.”
Freshman health and fitness education major Kelsey Selstead and freshman business major Gigi Bertagni said participated in the food sorting for their sorority service requirement but also for personal reasons.
“I was motivated because it was Martin Luther King Jr. Day so it’s a good opportunity,” Selstead said. “You don’t get a lot of time other weeks to do it.”
Bertagni was following tradition.
“I’ve been volunteering on Martin Luther King Jr. Day for about four or five years so I wanted to keep with the trend,” she said.
Bauer said the CCE hosts three other says of service throughout the year: the 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance Day, Make a Difference Day on the fourth Saturday of October and Earth Day on April 22.
“It’s definitely beneficial for our community because we do have the college and there’s just such a huge need in every way for what we do,” Howard said.