Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was all about service. "Everyone can be great, because everyone can serve," he said. Madison-area students are once again preparing to honor Dr. King and to take a day on, not off, as they take part in the annual MLK Youth Day of Service and Science Jan. 21 at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery on the UW-Madison campus. The event is once again sponsored by the King Coalition and the Urban League of Greater Madison.
The full-day event will not only be a chance to celebrate Martin Luther King’s contributions, but to celebrate the presidential inauguration of Barrack Obama, which will be happening on the same day. The theme of this year’s MLK Youth Service Day event will be "A Dedication To Service (A Discovery Of Science)."
“I think it’s important to highlight all careers and all opportunities that kids have,” says 2013 MLK Youth Service Day Coordinator Tosha Songolo. “There is no reason to limit them when there are tons of research and career options that are on this campus that we have at their disposal. I think it’s important to let them know that they can do this, too. You can be a scientist. You can be whatever you want to be.”
Songolo is the perfect person to help organize the MLK Jr. Day of Service and Science since, by day, she does a lot of STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] outreach as a science outreach specialist for AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery. She focuses on increasing access and exposure of STEM-related careers and educational opportunities to underrepresented K-12 students in Madison. “Doing a service day on Martin Luther King Day is very important to me,” she says. “It’s a big part of my year of service for Americorps VISTA.”
Like last year, service and science will be combined at the annual event that will start at 9 a.m. and go until 4 p.m. “There will be a series of interactive stations of STEM-related activities. We will have the biological sciences, medical sciences, engineering, physics, some chemistry, veterinary sciences,” Songolo says. “There will be a lot of different opportunities for students and a lot of different hands-on and engaging activities for students to get involved with including lab workshops.”
In the afternoon, the students will be able to do service projects in the building including: working with Project Linus to put together handmade blankets and afghans to comfort children who are seriously ill, traumatized, or otherwise in need through the gifts; writing and decorating holiday cards for children with cancer; decorating bags for Meals on Wheels; and having focus groups around Martin Luther King’s vision and discussing how it relates to the presidential inauguration and what young people can do for society.
Songolo hopes to see at least 300 youngsters at the event. She is encouraging students to spend one day doing what Martin Luther King dedicated his whole life to —service. Getting children to commit to service at a young age will make them better citizens and greater leaders in the community in the long run.
“Beyond the service aspect, I think this is a great event for students to come to because they will have a chance to explore things that they’ve never imagined,” Songolo says. “It’s a great chance to be social, to meet other kids, to meet their peers, and to meet college students and see what they are all doing. It’s a chance to take pride in your community and what we have in Madison.”
The Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service & Science 2013 will be held Monday, Jan. 21, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, 330 N. Orchard St. All events are free for youth and their chaperones and includes breakfast and lunch.
For more information, contact Meredith (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Tosha (email@example.com).