Early on Jan. 16, Tech students of all backgrounds made their way to the Student Center and came together to volunteer in honor of Martin Luther King (MLK) Jr. Day.
MLK Day is the only federal holiday dedicated by Congress as a day of service. Ever since this call to action was first celebrated in 1994, participation in service on MLK Day has steadily increased, with people across the nation dedicating themselves to others through activities such as mentoring or donating.
Here at the Institute, the holiday is celebrated by a variety of service events. This year, several organizations, such as Trees Atlanta, Concrete Jungle, Ebenezer Church and Tech’s own STAR Services program called volunteers to use their day off to support causes ranging from environmental issues and poverty relief to social justice.
Volunteers with all of the organizations started their day off early, meeting at the Student Center for breakfast and orientation.
Afterwards, organization representatives showed them the basics of each volunteering operation and signed them in before the off-campus volunteers were bussed to separate sites across the city for their projects.
The activities were all organized by Mobilizing Opportunities for Volunteer Experiences (MOVE), a student organization that consistently organizes service-based events in the Atlanta area. MOVE is one of several service-related organizations on Tech’s campus such as Alternative Service Breaks, Cleanup Crew and Circle K.
While all of these organizations have differing goals, MOVE, through its various committees, sponsors events targeting certain focus areas it hopes to address, many of which were featured on MLK Day.
One event centered around tackling deforestation in which Trees Atlanta took students to Brook Run Park, a park built on a lot once occupied by a mental hospital. They spent the day planting saplings to reforest the area with other volunteers from across Atlanta.
Packed in winter gear, students wielded their shovels and gave the land new life with help from more experienced volunteers who showed them the ropes. Together, the students and volunteers planted 103 trees all across the park.
Other event organizers like Streets Atlanta, a volunteering operation of Ebenezer Church, let students talk to community members, educating them on power efficiency in homes and energy tax credits as well as handing out LEDs.
Streets Atlanta also had volunteers operate at the church itself where Reverend Bernice King, Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter, spoke on her father’s legacy.
All projects provided an opportunity to explore new parts of Atlanta and meet people across the city. Interacting with the community, students were offered the opportunity to learn about the city outside of Tech while giving back.
In general, the day spoke of a unity and believer’s spirit that represented the community of Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream.
Ayush Kotru, a first-year AE major, who was project manager for Streets Atlanta, explains that the day was a way to “celebrate civil progress, and everyone being able to come together.”
He found the whole experience to be really eye-opening, saying “through volunteering, we can give back to the community for the progress of everyone.”
Martin Luther King Jr. was a man who found ways to support the needs of his community, not just as a political organizer, but as a pastor and through service.
In his memory, this is what separates MLK Day from other holidays as a day of service. It is not just another day off — it provides an opportunity for a “day on,” calling people to come together for a better future.