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Annual Center for Student Engagement MLK Day of Service a time to give back

Students are encouraged to engage and better their community through volunteerism on Jan. 15

As Dr. Marin Luther King, Jr., said himself, "What are you doing for others?"

At the Center for Student Engagement, we believe in having a day on, not a day off, on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

This year on Jan. 15, 2018, we'll be having our Fourth Annual Center for Student Engagement Martin Luther King Day of Service and we hope you'll join us!

I have had the honor of being involved with the Martin Luther King Day of Service on campus for several years and it never fails to both inspire and teach me. I am inspired by the passion of so many individuals and groups on and off campus who come together and work to improve the quality of life in our community. Through hearing about the work of local non-profits, I learn about some our community's greatest assets and most pressing challenges.  

Our Martin Luther King Day of Service brings University of Nevada, Reno students and community members together to remember the legacy of Dr. King by serving the Washoe County community. It's important to acknowledge that we have not achieved Dr. King's vision. Inequities and injustices still exist and many in our nation, our communities and our campus still experience them. While our community will not be transformed in a day, this holiday can serve as a starting point for some and a reminder for many of us to re-evaluate how we should be spending our days off.

We still have work to do, and we must do it together.  

This is what makes Martin Luther King Jr. Day so special -- this idea that we can provide a mutually beneficial opportunity with our community partners. One where students, faculty and staff can come together not only in service to others, but also in learning through dialogue and empathy.  

One of the central objectives of the Center for Student Engagement's Martin Luther King Day of Service is to engage, educate and empower our University community to be more active citizens. If you were not at Martin Luther King Day of Service last year, let me share with you some of the things I saw when I visited the different sites as coordinator of the event.  

You may recall the overwhelming amount of snow last January, but it didn't stop one group of dedicated students from signing up to participate in Truckee Meadows Park Foundation's annual MLK Bioblitz. I watched in awe as students, in full winter garb, worked to catalog wildlife and clean up the park despite the snow that crunched beneath their feet. One student, acknowledging the cold climate, said afterward, "it was difficult, but we all learned more about our local community."  

I visited the Kiwanis Bike Program, where students helped to disassemble and repair at least 20 bicycles. These bicycles were given away or sold at affordable prices for children and adults in our community. A student at this site told us, "Everything was smooth, informative, and well monitored. You always knew what you were doing."    

For some students who volunteered at Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum, the experience opened their eyes. One student said it was his first time ever volunteering. He talked about how much fun he had showing kids some of the interactive science exhibits. Others who volunteered at that location discussed afterward how great of an educational opportunity the museum provides for kids, and wondered whether kids of all backgrounds and socioeconomic statuses have that opportunity. 

Like the student mentioned above, we strive to make the day smooth, informative and well monitored. Volunteers sign up for shifts that contain service opportunities at multiple locations in the community. Each volunteer shift includes an educational session, transportation from campus to a volunteer site, a reflective discussion and lunch. Students volunteer at the sites for roughly two hours.  

Offer your time, abilities and voice this MLK Day of Service. As a participant, you will learn valuable information about important causes, meet other passionate individuals who are working to make a difference, feel a sense of fulfillment and develop skills that can help advance your career.  

Students interested in seeing the list of organizations we'll be partnering with this year, or who would like to sign up to volunteer, head to UNR.givepulse.com.  

We encourage individual students and student organizations to pursue being civically engaged. Find more Center for Student Engagement volunteer opportunities.

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