Teaching social justice
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The parents who founded the Charles River School in 1911 wanted their kids to be moral leaders who would take responsibility for themselves, their classmates, and their community. That sentiment continues to echo through the school's work today. For Martin Luther King, Jr. Day this year, the school is running an assembly that includes workshops about social justice for students across all grades and ages. Their hope is to engage each child in an authentic way, by not only celebrating King's message but also by embodying it.
"What is important to remember is that Dr. King's work is a link amongst others who went before him, alongside him, and after him," explains Elena Periera, committee co-chair of the school's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. "Dr. King's last book was Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? As a community, we are raising children to know themselves, understand others, and shape the future."
Seventh-grader Jackson Beehr is looking forward to this year's activities. "Charles River School challenges us to support issues of social justice, by teaching us about real-world issues," he says. "They encourage us to go out and make the world a better place. Last year on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we sang the song 'Loving Kindness.' The song really gets the message across about the issues of social justice."
As Periera points out, King's work isn't finished—not by a long shot. "This day is a day where we not only celebrate Dr. King and the many who've challenged injustice, but a day to, first, make connections with those engaged in the work around us, and second, to explore our own opportunities for impact, to follow them in the pursuit of a better world," she adds. If you're wondering how you can help, try these 15 creative ways to volunteer and make a difference.
Feeding those who are less fortunate
Who runs the world? Girl Scouts! For the past five years, the members of Pennsylvania's Girl Scout Troop 636 have spent their day off from school cooking and serving lunch at the Everlasting Life Ministries in downtown Allentown. Around 100 people usually attend, many of whom are homeless, elderly, or just have trouble affording a hot meal every day. The troop's event is funded through a $250 grant donated by Scout Leader Heather Krey's insurance agency in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
"We did our first MLK Day lunch in 2015 when the girls were in 6th and 7th grade. That year, we spent several of our meetings looking up recipes, making shopping lists, and ensuring that everything would fit into our $250 budget. The troop leaders did most of the cooking but made sure to keep the girls involved every step of the way," explains Krey. "It is absolutely fantastic to see how the girls have grown in confidence and leadership as they have been serving their neighbors at the Ministry."
This work has made a big impact on Sophia LaPenta, a 16-year-old troop member. "I love doing our MLK dinner because it feels wonderful to come back each year and be greeted with the familiar smiling faces at the ministry. It is incredibly rewarding to take charge to prepare meals with my fellow Girl Scouts and see the happiness it brings to those who enjoy it. Every step of the way is fun, but the best of all is sharing a meal with those at the ministry and taking a moment to be grateful on MLK day."
It's that gratitude and an increased awareness of the world that make this event so important. "Living outside the city all my life really removes me from the plight of so many people around the world without homes, and in my case, just 15 minutes away," says 16-year-old Sarah Kolasa. "Experiences like these that promote simple human interactions with those different from you are vital to understanding both your role in the world and the vision of Dr. King." Check out this story of how one 17-year-old is helping to feed 12,000 homeless people.
Helping kids graduate college
Corporate America can play a huge role in moving Dr. King's vision forward. Natural Grocers, a national chain of organic food stores, proves this. The Colorado-based business has partnered with Jack and Jill of America, a nonprofit, membership organization of moms with kids aged 2 through 19, that is dedicated to nurturing future African American leaders. The partnership has launched a multifaceted, national investment campaign, scheduled to kick off on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2020.
Through Natural Grocers' donations and customer fundraising, the initiative will raise money to support Jack and Jill of America's Graduation Assistance Program (GAP), a fund for current students of historically black colleges or universities who can't graduate because of small unpaid tuition bills. Every year, a number of seniors are stopped from graduating because they can't make ends meet while going to school. This fund aims to change that reality, launching the leaders of tomorrow into the workforce as college graduates. Don't miss these stories of people who came from nothing—and now want nothing more than to give back.
12 Powerful Ways People Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Source:https://www.rd.com/culture/ways-people-celebrate-martin-luther-king-jr-day/