A group of Ligon Middle School students eagerly raced to the top of the stairs of the Talley Student Center to participate in the the ninth annual Martin Luther King Service Challenge Saturday. Going on its third year of teamwork, Ligon GT Magnet Middle School and the N.C. State Center for Student Leadership, Ethics and Public Service (CSLEPS) joined forces once again in hopes that the Ligon Middle School students, most who are of minority and come from low income households, would learn the true meaning of teamwork, leadership, and service ethics. Edom Jones, director and overseer of College Prepatory Success (CPS) and Mike Giancola, director and overseer of CSLEPS, joined together once again for their third year, this time on N.C. state campus, with the sole purpose of making sure each middle school participant was given the opportunity to give service back to the community and have exposure to a college environment while honoring the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

N.C. State student volunteers sat by each middle school participant as the service challenge began with a rather controversial nine minute ABC News video clip entitled “Does White Privilege Exist in the U.S.?” The video touched on the topics of racial profiling in the work place, school, and local community.

“This is my second year volunteering for the MLK challenge and I can truly say that this service project is not just an eye opening event for the children but for me as well. It is truly amazing to see this video and how racial profiling is hidden everywhere.” Said Natalie Umesi, senior in biological sciences and botany. Ms. Toni Thorpe then gave a brief introduction of the purpose of the MLK challenge by asking students to not only remember Dr. Martin Luther King for his service to the community but also to give a brief moment of silence in honor of the life of N.C. State Women’s Basketball Coach, Mrs. Kay Yow, who died earlier that morning after a 22 year battle with breast cancer.

After sharing her goals for the days challenge, Thorpe shared the story of Sankofa. Her story kept the volunteers alert as she was able to connect  it with  the concept of dreams and how one must attain those dreams to stray away from “dreamcrushers.” She then shared with the students some words for thought written by Martin Luther King Jr. and asked the audience to repeat after her in hopes they digest the meaning having dreams and achieving them.

“I really did have fun and I liked working with the kids because they asked me questions about the college experience and I was able to answer them and tell them how important it is to have a higher education for the future.” Said Maritza Adonis, a junior in political science and biological sciences.

N.C. state volunteers asked groups in attendance to answer discussion questions related to discrimination. Students’ shared personal encounters they have had with racism in their communities, schools, churches etc. One group discussion even brought up discrimination in the political elections of 2008-2009, mentioning and reminding in some cases that the United States President Obama is black.

“I think today is really good. Martin Luther King has shown that we can change and that blacks and minorities are not just about gangs and violence” said Doris Riley a sixth grader attending Ligon Middle School.

In serving the community, the student volunteers were split up into three groups and responsible for creating health care kits, designing blankets and making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the less fortunate. During each project, middle school students held separate conversations with one another asking N.C. State volunteers about the N.C. State college experience and future goals they may have or goals they have already accomplished while in college. While the program was designed to service the community, learn service ethics and leadership while connecting with others in learning the history of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., some students actually went home with a sense of encouragement and new found friends of a different academic institution. Like past years, the MLK service challenge once again gave students the opportunity to learn more about the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King in connection with service to the community.