Volunteers and students create and cooperate at Martin Luther King day of service

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2016/01/18/volunteers-and-students-create-and-cooperate-at-martin-luther-king-day-of-service/

BOSTON – More than 650 students and volunteers streamed into a crowded lunchroom at Boston Latin School, where arts and crafts supplies were scattered throughout the color-coded cafeteria tables.

On the agenda: spending part of the snowy Monday morning, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, by creating “reading success kits” and other items students could use to improve their reading skills and learn about the man at the center of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s.

With Mayor Marty Walsh and Superintendent of Schools Tommy Chang looking on, the students and volunteers worked together to build the kits, which will go to students at Lee Academy, Winship Elementary School and Edward Everett School.

Volunteers create story starters at Boston Cares Service Day
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The event, called Boston Cares: a Day of Service honoring Dr. King’s legacy, took place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the country’s oldest public school. It was sponsored by Boston Cares, the largest volunteer action center in New England, Target, the Massachusetts Service Alliance, AmeriCorps, ServiceWorks and FOX25 News.

“Promoting excellence with equity – this is not only something we should strive for, but should be the rock in everything that we do,” said Dr. Chang, who added that this event, held every year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, helps underachieving students.

Patrice Keegan, the executive director of Boston Cares, said that the reading success kits help children read at their grade level, which in turn helps them achieve life-long success.

“It’s one of the most important things for children’s education,” she said.

Each reading success kit included a small bookshelf, grade-specific books, literacy games, hand-made picture books to serve as “story starters” and classroom sets of literacy flashcards and reading journals. Students also receive a lap desk that they could take home in order to continue their learning outside of school.

Matt Ng, a regular Boston Cares volunteer, was helping create portable lap desks made out of foam, with a hard surface covered in colorful fabric. Ng said the desks are perfect for kids who otherwise wouldn’t have space to do their homework.

“It’s always a great way to get the community together,” said Ng, a management consultant at Deloitte. “The event always takes place in a large space with portable projects that also are youth friendly. This is actually a larger portion of kids than we usually have.”

Maddie Nees, a junior at Dighton-Rehoboth Regional High School in North Dighton, said she would rather spend her time volunteering at the event than be in school. Together with her two siblings she helped put together reading journals for younger students.

“It teaches students literacy skills and lets them express their thoughts,” Nees said.

Hidden in a back room adjacent to the cafeteria, Pam Loving, a regular volunteer for Boston Cares, was sorting through 1,000 books. The books came from volunteers and from the organization More Than Words, a non-profit that empowers youths in foster care, who are homelessness, or out of school, to take charge of their life by taking charge of a business.

“It’s nice to see that so many people do appreciate this and do care,” said Loving, an outreach representative at Next Step Living. “Being around people becomes contagious in a good way, and you achieve so much in such a little amount of time.”

Mayor Marty Walsh said the event helped participants reflect on Dr. King’s lesson about community.

“Do you think his words today would mean the same back in the 60’s?” Walsh was asked while reflecting on Dr. Martin Luther King’s teachings. He said that many of King’s words are still very relevant today, roughly a half-century since he spoke them.

“Some gains have been made, but not enough,” the mayor said.