Cameron gives back on MLK Day

photo courtesy of Leslie Cothren

photo courtesy of Leslie Cothren

Hafsa Farah
Staff Writer

Four hundred Cameron University students volunteered from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Jan. 19 at elementary schools and community agencies across Lawton as part of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service.

CU students, alumni and staff devoted their time, totaling 1600 hours, to three elementary schools in town, as well as to the Lawton Food Bank, Owens Center and the Boys and Girls Club. Volunteers cleaned and painted at schools and organizations and held a supply drive in which they collected donations for various nonprofit agencies in town.

Student Activities Coordinator Leslie Cothren said she felt this year’s MLK Day of Service was definitely a success.

“In previous years,” Cothren said, “the MLK Day of Service was held at over 30 different community agencies in town. However, reducing that number to just six this year has allowed our volunteers to focus on a few locations and accomplish a lot more in the amount of time they had.”

Cothren said the feedback she received from the elementary schools was overwhelmingly positive.

“The schools were grateful for the work our students and community members put into their facilities,” Cothren said, “and they felt a lot of work got done.”

Junior biology major Oluwatoyin Kayode volunteered at Lincoln Elementary School and said she enjoyed partaking in the event.

“You get to help little children,” she said. “Some of them are homeless. We painted and cleaned the classrooms. It was a lot of fun. In the three years I’ve been volunteering, I’ve noticed that a lot more people have begun participating than in previous years.”

A day on, not off: Vice President of University Advancement Albert Johnson, Jr., cuts stray branches at Boys & Girls Club-Lawton. Johnson and other Aggies volunteered at various locations for MLK Day of Service.

photo courtesy of Leslie Cothren

Nationally established as a holiday in 1986, MLK Day of Service has been a standing tradition at Cameron University for the past seven years after its initiation in 2009 by Dean of Students Zeak Naifeh and Jennifer Holland, who was vice president of student services at the time.

Naifeh shared his vision for the continuation of the MLK Day of Service program at Cameron University.

“We hope the future will bring even more volunteers,” he said, “and new ways in which we can help our community.”

For Lawtonians, the special day ultimately demonstrated the importance of giving back to the community. It was a time in which diverse groups of people came together to devote service to their fellow human beings, embodying the spirit of King’s teachings and work.

Beyond the city of Lawton, other communities across the nation launched their own day of service programs; all 50 states participated in building homes, refurbishing schools and community centers and running food and clothing drives.

President Barack Obama and his family took part in the event by serving at the DC Central Kitchen.

In his address given on Jan. 16, Obama emphasized the importance of community and celebration of freedom within the United States.

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