Typically at Northeastern State University, Martin Luther King Jr. Day calls for not just a day off from classes, but also a day of service so students can give back to the community through volunteering.
Usually, the MLK Day of Service consists of the students going around the city of Tahlequah and performing different tasks for area residents. This year, however, things had to change a little bit to comply with COVID-19 guidelines.
Instead of going outdoors in groups to serve, individuals met in the University Center Ballroom and decorated cards to send to those in care facilities that haven’t been able to have many visitors due to their own COVID-19 restrictions.
“Things are definitely different this year than they were last year,” said Zaine Dyer, NSU sophomore. “For one, there’s the social distancing we are abiding by. Last year, I went with the rest of the Greek Life that was participating and walked dogs. It was fun to meet with the other Greek communities during that time, and that is much harder now, but it is understandable.”
Students participating still understood they were making an impact and furthering the legacy for which MLK strove.
“I think the fact that we can all come together like this is something that Martin Luther King fought for,” said Quinton Thompson, NSU senior. “This is a time we can give back to the community. While what we are doing isn’t necessarily fighting for racial justice, it’s going to do something that helps the community as a whole.”
Some volunteers even went to Rowdy’s Resource Room, the on-campus food pantry and thrift store, to help organize and sort the supplies.
Of the 80 volunteers, 331 cards were made and 30 individuals helped organize the resource room.
One constant among the volunteers was the increasing need for unity and compassion in America. With the recent events unfolding at the U.S. Capitol and the many others that took place over the summer, Nate Route, NSU sophomore, believes the county is in as much need of the words MLK spoke today as it was 60 years ago.
“I think right now is the most important time since the last social justice movement to remember the words of Martin Luther King,” said Route. “Since the '60s, there seems to have been a bit of a break, but now it seems that inequality is coming back heavy, so I think it is important to remember Martin Luther King and to use his ways as a model.”
Thompson concurred with Route’s thinking, saying MLK’s words and methods are timeless.
“Martin Luther King’s words can be applied universally and absolutely still ring true today, just as much as they did many years ago,” said Thompson.