Martin Luther King Jr.’s lifelong concerns of the education and moral growth of children, volunteerism and equal access shaped several of the community service projects led by Temple students, alumni and employees throughout the weekend and during the holiday weekend.
The 18th annual Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service channeled the sentiment behind King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered at the Lincoln Memorial five decades ago, into abiding dedication to community service.
Freshman education majors Shannon Reilly and Jenna Lee said volunteerism should begin at an early age. On Friday morning, Reilly and Lee, alongside other students from the School of Education, volunteered their time to teach KIPP Elementary Academy students about King’s legacy.
“Our team connected the five values that KIPP stands for, which are excellence, teamwork, integrity, joy, and determination to what MLK stood for,” Lee said. “So it was easy for them to understand and pledge to carry on with.”
The celebrated civil rights leader once envisioned education as the combination of intelligence and character.
Amidst jazzy banners and peaceful slogans, the children shared their dreams with the volunteers. Some longed for a gun-free world while others wished for food and shelter for the homeless.
“Many of them know about recent incidences of violence and inequality in education,” Reilly said. “Since it’s a charter school, the students attending were picked from a lottery, and they are aware not everyone has the same educational opportunity.”
“Witnessing that type of compassion in a child 7 or 8 years old showed me that the future can be so bright if she shared her same compassion with her classmates,” Lee said.
On Monday morning, hundreds of volunteers arrived ready to roll up their sleeves and take part in a variety of service projects sponsored by Temple, Global Citizen and MLK 365.
The Office of Community Relations and the Computer Recycling Center delivered 26 computers at Bright Hope Baptist Church in an effort to bridge the digital divide that is persistent in the community.
Jonathan Latko, assistant director of the CRC, said that 50 percent to 60 percent of people in some areas of the city lack computer access.
“As the world moves along, more and more things need access to the Internet,” Latko said. “If you don’t have the skills to build a résumé or fill out online forms you aren’t going to reach the next level of education that you need to survive in this information society.”
The CRC averages 30 to 40 donations per year, which allows the center to set up small computer labs in the communities surrounding Temple, Latko said.
The newly established computer lab will be made available to the church administration and the children in the church’s afterschool program.
“The children will have an area where they can come, grow and learn,” Shenneca Tilghman, director of youth and children ministry, said.
While Latko’s team set up the computer lab in the basement section of the church, other volunteers cleaned and colored the adjoining rooms with light green paint.
Andrea Swan, director of community and neighborhood affairs, toured the site along with President Neil Theobald to greet the volunteers and other community leaders.
“We had close to 600 people volunteering around Main Campus as well as Girard College,” Swan said. “There was more engagement this year than last year.”
Theobald commended the volunteers for their service and emphasized that “being involved is key.”
Swan and Theobald also visited Columbia North YMCA where volunteers renovated the site by moving out unused materials and by preparing the second floor to be turned into an afterschool center.
“The volunteers were invaluable, we couldn’t have done this without the support of the university,” Roger Jackson, executive director of the YMCA branch, said.
As the morning went on, volunteers eased up by cramming themselves into a room to watch the remainder of President Barack Obama’s second inauguration. Temple alumni, students and senior officers, Theobald and YMCA staff shared the room as they listened to the Obama’s speech.
“I’m proud that people took such an important day and carved a niche out of the it to give back to their community,” Swan said.
Laura Ordonez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.