On Monday, January 20th, Americans will take a moment from their busy lives to remember the civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Many will honor his memory by taking part in Martin Luther King Day of Service [hyperlink tohttps://mlkday.gov/], a nationwide event which celebrates Dr. King and his call for us to engage with our communities and help our neighbors. For the past three years, Rutgers-Camden has taken part in this national call to service, and an important contributor to this event is the Civic Scholars, a group of undergraduate students who promote Rutgers-Camden’s mission of civic engagement. The Civic Scholars Program, established in 2011, requires its members to take part in academic seminars on making social change and to complete 300 hours of community service throughout the academic year. They engage in a variety of community service projects throughout the year, including working in after-school programs in North Camden schools and volunteering at local organizations like Cathedral Kitchen, Urban Promise Academy, and Hopeworks ‘N Camden.
“The Civic Scholars and the Office of Civic Engagement have been instrumental in the growth of the MLK Day of Service,” says Chris Countryman, who serves as a program coordinator for the Civic Scholars, and Tom Dahan, coordinator of faculty and academic engagement. The event has more than doubled its numbers of participants, from 60 student volunteers in 2012 to 250 last year. In years past, the students have traveled to different Camden sites, such as St. Anthony of Padua Church and Urban Promise Academy, and worked with local youth, engaging in activities as diverse as painting rain barrels for community gardens and creating a petition to address littering and hazardous trash sites.
This year will be the first time Rutgers-Camden has hosted the event, and Countryman says, “We hope to attract over 300 volunteers to campus for a variety of activities that will showcase our commitment to serving youth in the city of Camden. Planned workshops range from activities such as learning about nutrition to creating artwork that represents Dr. King’s message to planting a “peace plant.”
Psychology major Millie Kipp, a first-year Civic Scholar who is also involved with the Students of Rutgers Volunteers Council (SRVC), is thrilled at the opportunity that hosting the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service provides. “It’s exciting…to engage with the members of the surrounding community and see how Rutgers-Camden students can support others.
In addition to on-campus events, a variety of workshops will be given at the Urban Promise Academy. Michael Haeflinger, who received his master of fine arts degree in creative writing from the Graduate School-Camden and also teaches for the Department of English, will oversee workshops about collage art, designed for elementary students, an English Language Learners (ELL) poetry workshop in ode writing for adults and students, and a seminar by the spoken word group RUCKUS, who will work with participants in Louder Than a Bomb, a teen poetry slam group.
All members of the community are encouraged to participate in this event. Register now at https://www.camden.rutgers.edu/page/martin-luther-king-day-service and discover a passion for civic engagement.
Written by Julie Roncinske