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Mount St. Mary’s Students see MLK Day as day on, not off, to Serve

Communications Staff

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “We may have all come on different ships, but we're in the same boat now.” This statement is as true today as it was when the minister and civil rights activist spoke those words many years ago.

msmu-students-on-service-trip-in-kitchen.jpgOn Monday, Jan. 16, nearly 80 Mount students will celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day by volunteering their time and energy on two different service trips – turning a day off, into a day on.

One group will travel to the District of Columbia and partner with City Year, an education nonprofit that focuses on helping underserved schools and the students who attend them. These volunteers will paint schools, clean up neighborhoods and parks, serve in soup kitchens, support senior citizens and run educational activities for children.

The other group of students will partner with The 6th Branch in Baltimore, serving various aspects of the community, including projects at schools, parks and greenspaces. The Mount has worked with this veteran-led nonprofit before, aiding its efforts to eliminate vacant lots in east Baltimore by transforming them into places the community can go to play, garden or simply relax.

Ian Van Anden, director of the Office of Social Justice at Mount St. Mary’s University, says, “Some of the students who don’t come from those areas begin to understand what those cities are about and that it’s much more than what you see on the news.”

He says the number of students participating in this year’s day of service is nearly 40 percent higher this year than last. This day of service marks the fifth time the Mount will partner with The 6th Branch and the first with City Year.

Why would the students give up an extra day of vacation? The Office of Social Justice director points to two reasons. First, they understand the importance of King’s message of working together. Second, they recognize that whether they get thanked or not, their work is making the world a better place.

“Mount students are incredibly invested in making the most of every moment they have off, giving back and making a difference,” Van Anden says.

This commitment to service is apparent throughout the year, not just on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Mount students volunteer over 23,000 hours of their time each year across a wide array of service opportunities. Projects range from helping out at the Emmitsburg Food Bank, to traveling out-of-state to help build homes with Habitat for Humanity, to serving communities in other countries, such as Belize. The Mount has also partnered with the Special Olympics of Maryland for nearly 30 years, and saw more than 250 students volunteer for this past year’s Fall Sports Festival event.

So what would Van Anden tell others that are considering volunteering but haven’t yet committed? He’d ask them one simple question. “What’s holding you back?”

Communications Staff