MARQUETTE - It's only the second year Northern Michigan University officially recognized Martin Luther King Day by canceling classes, but NMU Volunteer Center participants took the day to heart, coordinating a number of service projects in the surrounding communities throughout the day.
"Now that we have the opportunity to take off class for the day, it's kind of a good way to bring our students out into the community and really expose them to different demographics and different areas of social justice they might not have thought of before," said Sara Pingel, assistant student coordinator at the Volunteer Center.
Students were taken to the Upper Peninsula Animal Welfare Shelter, a Habitat for Humanity home under construction in Ishpeming and the U.P. Children's Museum. Volunteers also gathered inside the Bottum University Center to write letters to soldiers and elected representatives, as well as knit hats, scarves and other warm clothing to be donated to the needy.
Northern Michigan University sophomore Tiara Porter paints a room at a Habitat for Humanity house being built in Ishpeming on Monday. (Journal photo by Zach Jay)
A trip to play BINGO with veterans in the Jacobetti Home for Veterans was canceled due to the facility's flu-generated quarantine.
The projects were made possible through a $1,000 grant from the NMU President's Council on Diversity. The grant helped provide transportation, food and drink for participants.
Justin Berkel, NMU junior in multimedia production and new technology, said he was happy to spend the day in service to others.
"I just think it's a great experience," Berkel said. "Dr. King was just an inspirational person. I mean, just the fact that he gave so much and fought so hard for so many people's rights ... it's just a great thing. It's people like Dr. King that really motivate me to do stuff like this. Basically, if there was more people like Dr. King in this world, this place would be absolutely amazing. Absolutely amazing."
Seth Kratz, volunteer coordinator at the Volunteer Center, said MLK day was meant as a day of service.
"Everybody gets the day off of school, and that's great, but you want it as a day of service, not a day that people don't have to go to school," Kratz said. "Because you know they're just going to sit at home and hang out with friends, which is awesome, but it's not the point of what he was about, which was getting out there and helping people."
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Zach Jay can be reached at 906-486-4401. His email address is email@example.com.