Kicking Off a Semester of Service and Learning for Bay Path College Students in Honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.
A day of service traditionally meant just that… one day. But for Bay Path College students on this January’s Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) holiday, the understanding and implications of service will go much further.
Molly Crouser is Bay Path’s MACC AmeriCorps*VISTA representative, and she helped orchestrate a kick-off event for MLK day which will go on throughout the spring 2014 semester through classes and increased opportunities for charitable work with the organizations taking part on that day. “Dr. King, and the national holiday represented on his birthday, is at the center of this event,” she explained, “with his values and teachings being the core service-learning components we will use.”
Rather than simply joining forces for one day with a local charity, this year Bay Path moved toward a civic engagement model: learning about the larger issues of service through relationships with these local need-based organizations. On the first day of the program, students met early in the morning on campus to discuss what the value of service is, how this is the first stages of philanthropy, and what impacts their participation will have. Social media was actively engaged during this campaign, and will continue to be throughout the semester; #BPCserves is the focal point.
Four sites in the Pioneer Valley hosted Bay Path’s young crusaders on MLK Day, between the hours of 10:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. They were Gray House, the Springfield Rescue Mission, Children's Museum of Holyoke, and the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum in downtown Springfield. The students served from morning until afternoon and were responsible for details such as sorting clothes in a thrift shop, grant researching, calling donors, organizing art closets, and working with children through the arts.
Upon their return that evening, students debriefed and pondered the implications of the day’s work. Questions about the philosophy of charitable service as well as the impact within their community and themselves were points of conversation.
Bay Path assistant professor Dr. Sarah Nathan offers a class this semester for undergraduates titled “Giving and Volunteering in America,” and they were just some of the College’s students taking part in the event. “Dr. Nathan and I have been collaborating on the service-learning curriculum for the program,” Crouser said. “We are very excited that we can honor MLK in this way, bond with peers at the start of a new semester, and serve Springfield and the surrounding communities.”