Roughly fifty-eight years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I have a dream” speech to the masses gathered around the Lincoln memorial. Today, people are still invigorated by the depth of his words and we celebrated his life on Monday, January 18.
Here, at Perkiomen Valley, many students, teachers, and other members of the community participate in the annual MLK Day of Service, which began in 2013 as an opportunity to volunteer and celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr. Since then, it has become a day that many community members look forward to because so many people volunteer at local organizations.
The Perkiomen Watershed always welcomes volunteers on MLK Day, with several ways to help out our local environment.
“In my sophomore year, my friends and I volunteered at the Perkiomen Watershed. There, we made “plant bombs” which we planted to grow plants during the spring and they were able to talk to us about the environment,” senior, Elaina Grando said.
The day of service is not just limited to older students but is open for the younger students as well. In years past, high school students have created activity stations for kindergarteners as well as mini-history lessons about the importance of the day. AP Human Geography teacher, Mr. Lawler, has participated in this event in years past as well as making it a point to have his children involved.
“One of the things we’ve tried to do at home is to get our own kids involved in doing community service and this has been one of the ways to involve them and reinforce the value and significance of the day. It’s also a good chance to teach them a little bit of history,” said Lawler.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic posed several obstacles when planning this year’s day of service. With limited numbers in group gatherings, social distancing, and other regulations to keep people safe, it was something that the PV staff had to work around to still pull off a successful event.
Jess Lester, PV’s Manager of School and Student Engagement who plans the event, touched on some of these obstacles.
“Usually, we have 300 to 4oo people in the high school on MLK Day to complete various service projects and learn about Dr. King and his legacy of service and social justice. The projects we typically have students work on involve being close together so that older students might help younger students with scissors, writing, or whatever might be involved with the hands-on project. As for outside organizations, it seems like the difficulty is in having people into their facilities – again, the need to limit participants and be socially distant can make a lot of volunteer work hard to do.”
The school disrict offered many ways to get involved on Monday. In addition to multiple at-home projects, there were several donation spots set up around the high school campus looking for new hats and gloves for the Mitzvah Circle, gently used clothing items for PV Post Prom, canned goods or notes for those in need, used glasses for the Lions Club, as well as used children’s books for Bridge of Books. More information on where to donate can be found on the school website under the MLK Day of Service tab.
Alongside donation stations, there were several different Ursinus workshops to attend via Zoom all about sustainability, history, or at-home science projects for kids. All of the workshops and talks were free for anyone to attend.
For those looking for some hands-on projects to do, there were cards and letters to write for multiple organizations as well as bracelets for Operation Gratitude. Some onsight volunteering occurred where high school students made seed bombs at the watershed, ran the donation stations, and cheered for essential workers at local hospitals.
SAFE Collective, a new club at the high school devoted to restoring justice in the PVHS community, released a video, launching their club and spreading their message.
Martin Luther King Jr. once said: “ Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love”.