Every year in late January, Alfred State and Alfred University students brave the cold for a good cause—heading out into the community in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his legacy of social justice and civic engagement during the annual MLK Jr. Dream Week Day of Service.
“Students served in Alfred, Almond, Belmont, Wellsville, and Hornell,” said Jonathan Hilsher, director of the Center for Civic Engagement at Alfred State. “Approximately 140 students, faculty, and staff participated in this event, including the Alfred State baseball team, Alfred University tennis team, and Greek organizations. President and Mrs. Sullivan also took time to lend a hand in the effort.”
College students, faculty, and staff worked on 16 separate projects, which included the Alfred Lions Club, food pantries, Wellsville Community Kitchen, Almond 20th Century Library, Allegany ARC, and buildings on both campuses. Volunteers painted rooms, made treats, visited with the elderly and disabled, cleaned and organized, and connected with local nonprofits.
“It was sincerely appreciated. Our school is now shining and sparkling,” said Carman Banzaca, executive director of the Alfred Montessori School. “The children and staff will be so thrilled.” This event rounded out a week of programming on both campuses in commemoration of the holiday and its namesake.
“Two of the most important outcomes of this event are the relationship building and fostering greater awareness of the challenges and opportunities in our larger community. I definitely see this day as a launching point for further civic involvement by our students,” Jonathan said.
Alfred State and Alfred University were recently awarded a New York Campus Compact 2014 MLK Collegiate Challenge Grant. Only a dozen schools in the state received the honor. Both institutions will collaboratively use the funds to honor the life of Dr. King by inspiring students to serve and helping members of the community to work together to address community challenges.
Elise is Director of Applied Learning at SUNY System Administration.