During this year’s 6th annual MLK Day of service at St. Norbert College students and staff celebrated the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr. by taking time out of their day to promote civil rights, equality, and freedom. Some participants chose to teach elementary school children in the De Pere area about Dr. King’s message of respecting others, while others spent the day serving various area agencies who are meeting important needs in our community. Students, staff and faculty also had the opportunity to participate in an advocacy program where they were able to write letters, send emails, and make phone calls to their elected officials at all levels. There was also an opportunity to attend an educational presentation on fair housing.
I had the chance to speak with Alex Clemetson, a senior at St. Norbert College, about his role in helping staff members Mike Peckham and Dee Geurts-Bengtson coordinate the school event as well as his overall experience. Not only did Alex prepare the SNC Track & Field team for the day and act as their site leader, he also kicked off MLK Day with a speech which reflected on the views of the day and the community service work participants were about to engage in. When I spoke with Alex, he explained that his goal was “to enlighten younger generations on the topics of diversity and treating one another with respect no matter who the other person is or the background they come from.”
While reflecting on his experience at this year’s MLK Day, Alex expressed just how important it is to him that his fellow students and community members realize the impact they have on the next generation. He emphasized how “it is important for students to get involved in future service days because the only way the world truly continues to make progress is if we do something about it. It is our duty as human beings to teach younger generations what is right, what is wrong, and how to create a world of respect and equality.”
Alex also noted that the service work being done through MLK Day really is working, claiming that every year he goes back to work with the children in the De Pere area school district they are becoming more and more aware of who is around them and how they should treat each other with respect. Alex states that this year specifically he was able to see “a clear difference in how the children were beginning to think about their interactions with one another.”
When asked what advice Alex has for other students looking to take a more active stance in our community, he quoted Martin Luther King Jr. himself by saying “the time is always right to do what is right.” Expanding on this powerful statement, Alex went on to say “If you want to get involved, if you want to make a difference, and you want to see a change, then it is up to you to take the first step to make these things happen. Reach out to Multicultural Student Services, the Sturzl Center, or even start a plan of service yourself. Do not wait for the action to come as waiting may cause you to miss an opportunity. Reach out and find out what you can do yourself.”
The passion and dedication behind Alex’s statement rings loud and clear as he challenges his peers to engage themselves in meaningful service opportunities and reach out to those in their surrounding communities. He continues, “MLK Day is more than a day of service. It is a day where we all become humbled to understand what it means to be human and how we are to treat one another and the world we live in. This event is our platform to do more and be greater. So why not find a way everyday to provide the greatest form of service toward one another? This service is love — which is the very focal point of this event.”
If you would like to learn more about how you can get involved with meaningful service in the community, take Alex’s advice and get in touch with either Multicultural Student Services or the Sturzl Center for Community Service and Learning. There’s no time like the present to start giving back, so take the first step today and see what you can do.