SRU students schedule MLK Jr. Holiday day of service


martin luther king junior

Feb. 18, 2016

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - A group of Slippery Rock University students will observe today's Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday by assembling wooden modules to be used to construct handicapped access ramps for homes in the New Castle area.

"I believe getting involved in service throughout the year is important for students, but specifically on Martin Luther King Jr., Day," said Natalie Polana, a graduate student in student affairs in higher education from Freeport, who is coordinating the project.

The students will volunteer at Eastbrook Mission Barn in New Castle, a faith-based ministry. The Mission Barn provides disaster relief materials locally and worldwide as well as wooden handicapped access ramps for needy persons in the four-county region. The modular system for constructing ramps allows for inexperienced volunteers to quickly meet the home-access needs of physically challenged adults and children.

SRU's Center for Student Involvement and Leadership is sponsoring the King day of service.

"The CSIL wanted to use this day as an opportunity to get students from different organizations involved in service and working together outside of their everyday student groups," said Polana, CSIL's program coordinator. "This MLK Jr. Day service will help to unite students and bring them together to achieve a mutual goal, which in this case is giving back to our community," she added. "Through participating in service, Slippery Rock University students show their dedication and commitment to making a difference in their community."

King was a Baptist minister and social activist, who led the Civil Rights Movement in the United States from the mid-1950's until his death by assassination in 1968. Known as a great humanitarian, King preached about the importance of public service. "Life's most persistent and urgent question is," he noted, "what are you doing for others?" His belief that "everybody can be great, because anybody can serve" is often seen as a defining catalyst for the community service movement.

King's 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech, delivered in Washington, D.C., is among the most acclaimed in U.S. history.

President Ronald Reagan signed a bill Nov. 2, 1983 creating a national holiday to honor King. It was observed for the first time Jan. 20, 1986.

"MLK Jr. was a courageous man who stood up for what he believed," Polana said. "I believe MLK Jr. is a great role model for college students all over the world because of his perseverance and dedication to ending segregation."

The Rev. Nelson Thayer, director of the Eastbrook Mission Barn, said SRU students built modules for a handicap access ramp in fall 2015.

"The group had so much fun - and recognized the impact that their work was making - that they made plans then and there to return again. The Martin Luther King Jr. Day work day is the result of that enthusiasm," Thayer said. "We will build more much needed modules for future ramps. The work that these students do will make a huge difference in the lives of disabled people in the Lawrence-Mercer-Butler county area."

Twelve students involved with Community Volunteer Corps and the Office of Multicultural Development will participate in the project. Students will leave by van at 12:30 p.m. from the Smith Student Center and return at 3 p.m.

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