Martin Luther King Jr.’s Memory is Celebrated with Community Service at Florida Southern College

Jan 16, 2023

by FSC Staff

Martin Luther King Jr. Day commemorates the life and work of Dr. King, who was a Baptist minister and prominent leader in the Civil Rights Movement.

Days of Impact

Students volunteering at the MLK Days of Impact
Students Volunteering as part of the MLK Days of Impact

Florida Southern College students, faculty, and staff volunteered for consecutive Days of Impact on Jan. 12 -13, leading up to Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Members of the campus community gathered in the Lucius Pond Ordway Building and exceeded their goal by packaging more than 11,000 nonperishable meals for those in need in our local community of Lakeland. The original goal was to prepare 10,000 meals. The packaged meals will be donated to Blessings of Hope. Meals of Hope provided food and equipment for the service project.

"On this momentous day, it is important to recognize that communities and individuals all over the world continue to benefit from the courageous work and inspiring words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., motivating FSC’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion,” said Wilhelmina Tribble, Florida Southern College’s Chief Diversity Officer.  “MLK is the sole Federal holiday designated as a National Day of Service, encouraging Americans to volunteer to help improve the lives of those in their communities. And in that spirit, FSC observes MLK Day as “a day on, not off”, encouraging faculty, staff, and students to participate in two Days of Impact to make a difference and advance Dr. King’s legacy of betterment, equality, and justice."

Dr. King’s Influence

Dr. King will continue to be recognized and remembered for advocating for civil rights and preaching a message of love, tolerance, and service.

“As one of the most prominent figures in history, I strive to emulate Rev. Dr. King’s philosophy which also mirrors FSC’s Cornerstone tenants,” said Thomas Range Assistant Dean of Student Engagement and Director of the Evett L. Simmons Center. “It is a pleasure to help lead Florida Southern College’s MLK Days of Impact with the support of the campus community. Student leaders, faculty, and staff members campuswide joined in to help us prepare meals for our Polk County community. Caring for, educating, and loving all people was central to Dr. King’s message and I am proud to help push that message forward and help lead others to do the same.”

As someone who valued education and who believed strongly that people should be judged by the content of their character, Dr. King famously said, “Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education.”

Ryan Foley '24 shares what this pictured Dr. King quote means to him.
Ryan Foley '24 shares what this pictured
Dr. King quote means to him.

Ryan Foley ’24, who is a Florida Southern business major from Davenport, Fla., shares Dr. King’s sentiment saying, “Education is all encompassing, not just learning what’s in books and what’s in the curriculum.” Foley continued, “It’s building yourself as a person as well. Teachers are in charge of shaping an entire person, not just focusing on one thing.”

Most of the Days of Impact volunteers are familiar with the Civil Rights movement because of lessons learned in classrooms. They do not know firsthand the struggles that made Dr. King’s activism necessary, but they are aware of his philosophy of love and respect for all.

Political Science major Sophia Francisco ’23, who is from Pembroke Pines, said she began learning about what Dr. King stood for and his impact on the world in elementary school, and her learning has continued into her college education.

“I think Dr. King really put an emphasis on respecting other people for their differences as well as being kind to each other and being inclusive of one another,” Francisco said. “So, I think that is huge for all of us, especially here at Florida Southern, because we want to provide such a welcoming environment for all of our students here.”

Living the Dream

Computer Science major Devin Rollins ’24, who is from Tuscaloosa, Ala., attended a school named for Dr. King. The school’s curriculum included lessons about Dr. King and Devin remembers having conversations with his grandparents about the civil rights leader as well.

Sophia Francisco '23 packages food at the MLK Days of Impact.
Sophia Francisco '23 packages food at the MLK Days of Impact.

“Learning about Dr. King and what he did, really makes you appreciate what you have now,” Rollins said. “Seeing the context of how things were and being able to compare it to what we have now, really makes you grateful for the things you have, the people you’ve met, and the connections you’ve made. It really makes you grateful.”

Dr. King’s dream can be realized by people coming together and appreciating different cultures and backgrounds.

Melanie Mendieta ’25 is a political science major originally from Nicaragua, but now calls Miami home. She had to learn a lot of history when she came to the United States as a first grader. Learning about Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement was a part of those history lessons. She especially appreciated reading Dr. King’s letters written during some of the darkest times of his activism.

“Dr. King fought for civil rights. He wasn’t just for one group of people, he was really fighting for everyone,” Mendieta said. “I would say, if it wasn’t for him this (the Evett L. Simmons Center for Multicultural Appreciation) wouldn’t have happened. Because he didn’t make it better for just one group of people, I would feel like Latinos in general do also have to really see his impact on our community as well.”

Packaged Meals of Hope to be distributed to local food pantries and service organizations.
Packaged Meals of Hope to be distributed to local food pantries and service organizations.

Students who volunteered during the FSC Days of Impact are proud that MLK Day is recognized, and that the College is doing something that will make a difference to honor Dr. King.

“It does make me very proud that we do have not only the day off, but that we have a service project here and we make sure to have our resources available to all of our students here to let them know the kind of work that we’re doing for diversity and inclusivity and things like that,” Francisco said. “And it makes me happy to know that Florida Southern is taking that step to make sure that Dr. King’s dream is continuing to be fulfilled.”

The FSC students, faculty, and staff who volunteered are the personification of Dr. King’s dream.

“It is refreshing to see FSC allow the campus community the opportunity to reflect on Dr. King’s legacy, not only reflect but continue to take action,” Range said. “This year, as Florida Southern has done for many years, I simply wanted to provide our campus community additional opportunities to make an impact by helping to feed people in need. The campus should beam with pride in its efforts to remember Dr. King through tangible service to the Polk County community.”

History of the Holiday

MLK Day officially became a federal holiday in November of 1983 with the signing of a bill by President Ronald Reagan. Though the holiday is a day off from school and work for many, some individuals and groups choose to honor Dr. King’s legacy by performing acts of service.

In 1994, former Pennsylvania Senator Harris Wofford and Atlanta Congressman John Lewis, who co-authored the King Holiday and Service Act, introduced the idea of using MLK Day as a day of service. President Bill Clinton signed the national Martin Luther King Day of Service into law in August of 1994.  Since then, various organizations have coordinated service projects and volunteer events across the nation.