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An AU Service Tradition: Students Volunteer in DC on MLK Day

The MLK Day of Service has been an AU tradition for 20 years, connecting student volunteers to community partners.

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AU students help prepare a bag of groceries as part of the MLK Day of Service.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day may be a day off from school, but for 107 AU students it was a day on—a day of service. They spent the last day before spring classes packing groceries for senior citizens, organizing clothes for refugees, cleaning up trash, and prepping literacy kits with community organizations in DC and Maryland.

It’s been an AU tradition for 20 years. MLK Day is the only federal holiday designated as a National Day of Service, with participants across the country honoring Dr. King’s legacy by volunteering in their communities.

AU’s Center for Community Engagement and Service (CCES) hosted its first MLK Day of Service in 2003, connecting student volunteers with organizations in local communities Since then, over 2000 Eagles have pitched in.

This year, students worked with six organizations: Martha’s Table, Horton's Kids, Kid Power DC, Alliance of Concerned Men, We Are Family, and SAMU First Response. President Sylvia Burwell and her family joined the student group helping SAMU First Response in Rockville, Md., while students fanned out across the region to give an extra hand to organizations working on issues ranging from refugee assistance to food insecurity.

In the words of Fanta Aw, Vice President of Undergraduate Enrollment, Campus Life and Inclusive Excellence: “You’re not going to those sites to fix ‘the problems,’ you’re going to those sites to learn more about them — and to ask yourself, how can you be part of the solution? And what can you do in small or large ways?”

It's one of several One Day Service Events hosted by CCES, which also include Explore DC and Read Your World Day. CCES also collaborates on Campus on Beautification Day and works with student groups to co-host and plan one-day service events of their own. 

Some of the student groups that participated in the MLK Day of Service include the Black Student Union, Students for Service, Sister Sister, African Student Union, AU Hillel, Humphrey Fellows, and Students for Change. Several athletic teams also joined in, including the Women’s Lacrosse, Women’s Volleyball, and Men’s Soccer teams.

Ride along with Eagle volunteers in the video below!