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Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service

Article by Ginger Dunbar, Daily Local News

DOWNINGTOWN 

Downingtown West High School students organized a service day to honor Martin Luther King’s legacy and his commitment to building and connecting communities.

Justin Smith, president of Black Student Union (BSU) at Downingtown West, said he wanted his peers to realize that anyone can do community service projects and be a part of the group. Smith and the fellow members of BSU collaborated with other student leaders to organize the event that they began planning before Thanksgiving.

“Even one little act can contribute a lot to the school culture. I’ve already seen the effects of it because the whole student body contributed,” Smith said. “You see the togetherness of it that you don’t see every day. It’s great to see, the sense of togetherness that every school needs.”

More than 100 Downingtown Area School District students, parents and staff members assisted at the event.

“It’s really cool to see,” he said about the amount of students who signed up to help on Martin Luther King Day.

And, Monday was their day off from school.

“It’s a national day of service, so we wanted to emphasize that,” advisor Nicole Lipkin said about the various service activities offered. “It’s a day on, rather than a day off.”

There were several different activities that the students could participate in, such as writing letters to service members, making blankets for children at A.I. Dupont Hospital, reading to younger children in the community and repainting the pillars in a hallway to the school colors. Because teachers helped out during the three-hour service project, there were also activities to keep their children busy, such as coloring and making origamis.

“I’m so impressed with our kids working together with Mrs. Lipkin to start a new tradition of service,” West Principal Kurt Barker said about the student-led initiative. “It’s easy to get excited about. They have a vision to create a culture of community service beyond collecting credit for National Honor Society.”

He said it also gives students a way to begin serving the community and helping others beyond their family, friends and neighbors.

“I think our student body is willing and looking for opportunities to serve others,” Barker said. “It’s a matter of providing them with an opportunity. I don’t think people know where to start.”

He praised the student leaders for their efforts to organize the service event and to enable students to impact others outside of their hometown.

The National Art Honor Society members used their creative side by painting a mural of King that will be displayed in the history wing of the school.

“It’s important to show American icons, especially in the history hallway,” Smith said.

He added that BSU has a goal to show the diversity in the school and be caring toward people who may seem different from one another.

“Even though we’re all different looking, we’re all the same,” Smith said. “It was a part of MLK’s message.”

This is the first major event for BSU and Smith has a vision for BSU to become more involved in the school community.

“Since becoming the president last year, this is what I envisioned my mark would be,” said Smith, a junior. “BSU’s role in Downingtown is going to be increasingly greater. I’m going to make the most of it. Whatever way I can help, that’s where I’ll be.”

The mural includes a quote by King, who said, “Our lives begin to end the day when we become silent about the things that matter.”

When the students signed-in for service hours credit, they were given a notecard that said “I have a dream,” a famous line from one of King's speeches. They were asked to write a brief statement about their dreams.