For this year’s Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) Day service event, which took place on Feb. 17, the MLK Day Committee split students into different groups to discuss social topics currently prevalent in the United States. Students were offered a range of service topics including education, hunger, poverty, public health, the environment, social justice, and senior citizens, with different teachers running each program.
In every meeting group, the session leaders organized presentations on their given topic, with some incorporating slideshows, Kahoot quizzes, and informative videos to help their students gain a better understanding of the content. Lawrenceville Director of Community Service Rachel Cantlay, who led the education service group, also organized breakout rooms with a “brief talking point question” for the students to discuss, in addition to giving a presentation.
In the process of selecting the different service topics offered this year, the MLK Day Committee analyzed “what types of service Lawrenceville students usually do,” said Student Council Community Service Representative Lauren McKinnon ’21. “We came to the conclusion that education, poverty, the environment...these are all areas that students address through their service at Lawrenceville,” she explained.
While a typical school year would allow the Committee to host in-person community service activities, the pandemic necessitated a new service event that students could participate in online. “We were optimistic that we might [have been] able to have an in-person day of service...initially we had worked on this idea to do a series of workshops,” said MLK Day Committee member Zack Finacchio ’21 on the Committee’s original plan for this year.
McKinnon explained that the Committee was looking to incorporate some “added programming” into this MLK Day. “We didn’t want it to be just one day; we wanted it to be a more prolonged experience,” she said.
Once the decision was made for programming to go virtual, Finacchio explained how the Committee decided to “take the plan [they had] already started” and transition it to a digital setting. Although students would not be able to actively serve this year, he hoped that “people would still leave with a better understanding of service.”
On this transition to virtual community service, Finacchio and the MLK Day Committee “tried to get as tech-savvy with it as [they] could” to keep the presentations as organized and engaging as possible. They did this by “experimenting with pre-programmed breakout rooms and...email blasts.”
In addition to adjusting to the virtual setting, the Committee decided to alter their goals for this year’s service day event so that “service isn’t surface level and so that students can develop a proper understanding of the context that surrounds it,” explained Finacchio. By “tak[ing] the time to educate yourself on what’s happening in another person’s life,” Finacchio and the Committee members believe that students can become more “considerate and impactful” in servicing the community. “Ultimately the goal is to make more efficient and more involved and aware service for everyone.”
Cantlay added that “the idea was to give everyone a foundation and an overview” of their chosen field of service. “I think we were successful in achieving that,” she said.