By Chris Maza
GREATER SPRINGFIELD – Students from Bay Path College reached out into the surrounding community for a day of service to honor Martin Luther King Jr. on Jan. 20.
In a widespread effort throughout the Pioneer Valley orchestrated by Bay Path AmeriCorps VISTA representative Molly Crouser, students broke into teams and donated their time to the Springfield Rescue Mission, The Gray House, The Children’s Museum of Holyoke and the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum in Springfield.
“Dr. King and the national holiday represented on his birthday is at the center of this event with his valued and teaching being the core service-learning components we will use,” Crouser said.
Katie Jones, team leader at the Springfield Rescue Mission on Bliss Street where students were helping sort and organize clothing donations that will then be distributed to those in need who come to the mission by appointment, said the day of service was the perfect way to honor King.
The day of service kicks off a much larger program in which the school is engaging this semester that will promote civic engagement and awareness of the larger issues relating to community service.
“Martin Luther King’s wife said the greatest birthday gift we could give him is to spend the day with a diverse group of people serving and to not only serve on that day, but continue serving after that,” she said. “A part of our goal is by exposing students to these daylong service projects, perhaps they will choose a more in-depth service project. It’s doing great stuff in the community and being connected with the community.”
For Bay Path Student Body President Savannah Reardon, taking part in the service project also epitomized King’s broader message.
“This past winter break we went on a trip and we got to go to the civil rights museum and I got to stand where MLK was shot. That was such an emotional experience that it really changes the way you look at the day,” she said. “You realize that he was all about service, so when I signed up for this day, it was because I felt I had to do this. This is what the day stands for; it’s not just a day off.”
Prior to and after the event, students had the opportunity to talk about what they hoped to get out of the service endeavors and what they learned from the experience.
“In [King’s] words, ‘Anybody can be great because everybody can serve.’ What we’re taking away from this is today we’re serving, so today we’re all great and we can all be great everyday because we can all do something to give back every day,” Reardon said.
She added that she was grateful that Bay Path offered so many opportunities for students to be active in the community.
“These opportunities are provided left, right, upside down and purple,” she said, explaining that even during freshman orientation a day is dedicated to service.