Each year, College Possible Washington spends Martin Luther King Jr. Day in service. For us, this day’s purpose is to recognize the contributions that Dr. King made in surfacing and addressing racism in the United States, and to educate our entire team on how that work ties back to our support of students.
Our organization focuses on serving students from low-income backgrounds, many of whom are first-generation college students, identify as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) and/or come from immigrant backgrounds. Understanding racial and social justice issues is critical to supporting these students in their educational journey.
Due to the ongoing risk of potential COVID transmission, arranging in-person service activities in our communities was not possible, so we opted to provide a high-quality virtual experience for our team.
The five main learning objectives for the service day were:
- To offer opportunities to perform service.
- To understand the work that Dr. King did to oppose racism and raise awareness of social, economic, educational and political inequities.
- To recognize the work that still needs to be done to accomplish Dr. King’s lifelong goals.
- To acknowledge the dissonance between the ways in which Dr. King is celebrated and recognized during the holiday and the racism that still exists today, and to genuinely understand his ideology and actions.
- To connect the day’s learning and experiences with College Possible’s mission and core values, incorporate what we learned to improve our service to students, and strengthen our team’s communication and sense of community.
The first half of the service day was spent doing virtual service activities and independent learning. We offered two different activities:
- Transcribing historical artifacts in the Smithsonian collection dedicated to the African American experience in the United States in the 1800s. Many items in this collection had been photocopied into archives, making the handwriting difficult to read. Our team transcribed the documents onto an electronic, typed format to increase accessibility of these important relics.
- Writing uplifting letters to be included in FareStart meals delivered to vulnerable community members.
The learning opportunities included educational reading and listening to recordings that illuminated the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In the afternoon, we held a series of interactive discussions in which we could share takeaways and think more deeply about our individual and collective roles in moving racial, social and educational justice work forward. The team enjoyed listening to the podcast and reading through the articles, finding that they yielded fruitful discussions and were highly relevant to the work we do every day with students.
This service day was entirely conceptualized, developed and facilitated by AmeriCorps members as part of the Service Days and Events Working Group. We’re grateful to have such talented and dedicated team members to provide these chances to learn, serve and grow together.