Emory Honors MLK Through Service

“Life’s most important and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”

500 Emory students took this question from Martin Luther King, Jr. to heart as they spent a day off from classes volunteering in his honor.

“It’s important for Emory to celebrate MLK Day because it shows the Atlanta community and the world that Emory is committed to service,” Volunteer Emory Fellow Alexis Irby (’12C) said. “We actually care about the legacy and history that Atlanta has as one of King’s most prominent areas.”

Irby was the lead supervisor of Emory’s Day On, hosted by Volunteer Emory. Students participated in volunteer projects across Atlanta to honor MLK Day on Monday, Jan. 21.

Volunteers had the opportunity to sign up for one of 13 projects hosted.

The various projects focused on education, homelessness, the environment, health care and other social justice issues, according to the Office of Student Leadership and Service’s website.

The projects all ultimately continued King’s legacy of giving back to the community, Irby said.

College sophomore Hannah Finnie volunteered at the Frazer Center, which offers day programs for disabled children and adults to learn life skills.

Finnie and her fellow volunteers sanitized classrooms because children with disabilities are more susceptible to catching the flu, she said.

Although the volunteer project she attended involved a seemingly menial task, Finnie said the most rewarding part of her day was when the project organizer reminded the volunteers that their work was an integral part of helping the children and keeping them healthy.

Volunteer Emory Staff Member and College sophomore Erica Sterling, who sorted medical supplies for people who cannot afford them through Embraced Atlanta, also said she had a meaningful experience on her project.

Sterling said she especially enjoyed the part when she heard an Embraced Atlanta community partner speak about changing careers after working in information technology for 12 years.

It was inspirational for her to hear the community partner discuss his reasons for making such a drastic decision, she said.

Irby said that a number of distinguished guests of the U.S. government also attended the event.

Four LGBT activists from Kyrgyzstan, 23 international civic activists, six minority rights activists from Czech/Slovak Republics and 10-12 Fulbright Scholars from various countries all participated in volunteer projects.

The day began in the Dobbs University Center (DUC) at 10:30 a.m. The audience listened as Senior Vice President and Dean of Campus Life Ajay Nair presented a speech, according to a Jan. 10 University press release.

After Nair’s speech and before departing for their events, volunteers watched the presidential inauguration.

They then had an opportunity to discuss the ceremony and enjoy refreshments before leaving on their projects, Irby said.

The Emory community will continue to honor King throughout the week through a number of activities. Events include panel and forum discussions on issues related to race and civil rights. Additionally, the Candler School of Theology will sponsor religious services throughout the week.

Two exhibits currently on campus relate to King Week activities. “Religious Life: Our Journeys into the Global Community” is on display in the DUC until the end of January.

“And the Struggle Continues: The Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s (SCLC) Fight for Social Change Exhibition,” which displays the work of the SCLC in the years following the civil rights movement, is in the Robert W. Woodruff Library until December.

The full schedule of King Week events is available at www.emory.edu/MLK.

— Contact Elizabeth Howell at 

ehowel5@emory.edu