More than 200 Occidental College students, faculty, alumni and staff made their way to over 15 locations across Los Angeles on Saturday, January 24 to weed and plant gardens; canvass neighborhoods; and clean, repair and paint, as part of the College's annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service.
Held the Saturday after Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the annual MLK Day of Service has become a hallmark event for Occidental students. Coordinated by the Office of Community Engagement with campus partners such as the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, the Office of Student Life, Alumni Affairs and Residential Education and Housing Services, the event attracts upwards of 200 participants each year who engage in community-based projects in honor of Dr. King’s spirit of service and peace.
Many of the community partners have well-established relationships with Occidental, and the College strives to sustain these relationships by creating mutually beneficial projects and educational opportunities for students.
"I’m always heartened by how many students go back and continue to volunteer with our partners as individuals and as groups. This is what we hope for the most -- that this day propels students to make long-lasting and reciprocal partnerships with local organizations," said Assistant Dean for Community Engagement Ella Turenne.
Students are provided with the opportunity to become familiar with important community-based work, and some even decide to return as volunteers or interns. By coordinating projects that offer meaningful co-curricular learning while benefitting the community, the MLK Day of service upholds Oxy’s mission of excellence, equity, community, and service.
"I do the MLK Day of Service every year because it's the best run, best-organized public service event this college puts on," says Clark Scully ’15, a DWA major and Russian minor from San Diego. "I believe in physical or direct action in philanthropy and activism. I hate how disconnected and digitized activist and social justice ‘causes’ are. People simply click the like button on Facebook or sign a petition and think that's going to change something. Going out and actually doing things takes effort and is usually pretty hard, but thanks to Oxy, doing something concrete and helpful was very easy and accessible."
While many of the Occidental volunteers—more than 200 students, plus staff, faculty and alumni—labored at public schools, churches, and community centers in Eagle Rock, others worked in Glendale, Pasadena, South Pasadena, downtown Los Angeles, and as far afield as the Wildlife Waystation in Tujunga. Volunteer sites included the Midnight Mission, Downtown Women's Center, The ROCK Community Center, Rockdale Elementary School, Girls on the Run, Debs Park, Legacy LA, Solano Canyon, the California Coastal Commission, Food Forward and MEND.
Supported by the Office of Community Engagement, the Center for Community Based Learning and the Urban and Environmental Policy Institute, community engagement is being integrated throughout campus through curricular and co-curricular initiatives, projects and research. Last year, almost half of Occidental students participated in service learning or community service. Just recently, the College was once again recognized as a community engagement institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, one of a small group of liberal arts colleges to be so designated for their commitment to mutually beneficial collaboration with communities, locally and globally. Last year, Occidental was named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction for exemplary service efforts.
Occidental’s MLK Day of Service was partially funded by a grant through Hope Worldwide and the Corporation for National and Community Service.