Occidental to Honor MLK By Serving Community

Occidental College will honor the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on Jan. 23 by mobilizing up to 500 students, faculty, staff, administrators, and alumni to volunteer in northeast Los Angeles as part of the MLK Challenge, a national student-run service project.

The Oxy volunteers will roll up their sleeves to work on about 20 service projects for local organizations and initiatives. Participants will be grouped into teams, and each team will receive $100 in seed money to help complete their service project. The College is working with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to identify some of the projects, which include: Heal the Bay Santa Monica and Heal the Bay Venice, the Wildlife Waystation, Proyecto Jardin, and the Downtown Women’s Center, which provides food and housing for up to 2,000 homeless and low-income women each year. Activities may include gardening, fundraising and perhaps even installing park benches.

Congress passed the King Holiday and Service Act in 1994, designating the annual King Holiday as a national day of volunteer service. The MLK Challenge goes one step further by framing service as a "challenge" – that way, participants are prepared to create and carry out a plan for a service project using teamwork and physical labor.

"Oxy wants to remember Dr. King by doing what we can to serve and support our larger Los Angeles community," said Justin Gerboc, Oxy’s assistant director for student organizations and leadership. "I want to encourage our community to be active in their observance of this day."

Occidental is one of a number of colleges nationwide that will participate in the MLK Challenge. The College received a $2,500 grant to put its MLK Challenge into action from the North Carolina Compact, a coalition of colleges and universities working to increase campus participation in community and public service.

Oxy’s MLK Challenge Day on Jan. 23 will feature opening remarks by Occidental President Jonathan Veitch and ASOC President Andrew DeBlock. Meals will be provided for the volunteers, and a closing ceremony will include musical performances and an interfaith reflection.

"We want to encourage students to incorporate service in their everyday life," said Rev. Susan Young, Oxy’s director for religious and spiritual life. "It’s our hope that students can see how their beliefs in social justice and community engagement can be transformed into community action. We also hope that they will incorporate these core values into their careers."

The Oxy community may sign up for the MLK Challenge by clicking here or the "Sign up here" button at: http://www.oxy.edu/x9266.xml. More information, such as the event’s schedule and participating organizations, is also included on the website.

In addition, local nonprofit organizations are encouraged to participate in the College’s MLK Challenge. One way is to give Oxy participants a challenge to complete. Another is to offer MLK Challenge participants discounts for lunch or project supplies such as lumber and tools. To participate, please send a message to oxymlk@gmail.com or Michelle Saldana at msaldana@oxy.edu.

For more information about the national MLK Challenge, go to: http://mlkchallenge.wetpaint.com/.

For more information about the King Day of Service, go to: http://www.mlkday.gov/.

For more information about Occidental College, go to: www.oxy.edu.