Approximately 150 students volunteered on Monday in an underprivileged neighborhood of Liberty City during Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, an annual event inspired by the late civil rights activist.
The service day’s turnout was one of the largest in the event’s history at the University of Miami. Although it is one of the smaller service days offered at UM, compared to the Gandhi Day of Service that brought together about 900 students in 2015, a record breaking number of students registered this year, which indicated a positive change to junior Beja Turner, the first vice president of United Black Students.
“It’s great knowing that this day of service is growing and thriving every year,” said Turner. “It shows that people are continuing to recognize the greatness of the life of MLK.”
Turnout wasn’t the only difference this year, as the service day partnered with Miami Children’s Initiative for the first time. MCI, a nonprofit organization focused on transforming Liberty City into a prosperous community, was chosen in 2015 as the community partner for the Clinton Global Initiative University Day of Action, which makes it all the more special for Turner.
“Its exciting in and of itself because we get to open a new avenue to a new part of Miami,” said Turner. “Most students might not have access unless they did have some service opportunities here.”
Liberty City is one of the most poverty stricken communities in Miami-Dade, but also one that MCI believes can be changed back into a thriving community.
Seeing first hand the community of Liberty City and the difference one can make, sophomore Aaron Gluck said he was struck with shock.
“Its different to hear about things that go on in communities than it is to see them with your eyes,” said Gluck. “But it goes to show that little things can make a difference.”
Throughout the day, students helped lay mulch, clean up, and paint the neighborhood’s elementary and middle school. Students were also able to personally engage with the children of Liberty City through games of basketball, kickball, and flag football. Senior Michael Hoffman said that giving up a day off from school was worth it when he saw the direct impact they were making with the children.
“We get this day off of school to commemorate the impact Martin Luther King made on this country, and we get to see the impact we make, even if on a smaller scale like a game of basketball,” Hoffman said.