MLK Day of Service at UMSL

UMSL students and staff (from left) Bailey Kinney, a senior media studies major, Megan Green, project director for new student programs, Danelle Tate, a senior business administration major, and Carly Fite, a senior graphic design major, painted signs at Earth Dance Farms as part of the annual Students of Service event to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Monday. (Photo by Maureen Zegel)

Oriel Williams gave up her day off Monday to participate in the MLK Day of Service at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. Williams, a sophomore biochemistry major, said she was inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King’s life.

The UMSL Experience“I grew up in a low-income environment and really wanted to give back,” she said. “And I wanted to do something I’d never done before to challenge myself.”

Williams was one of more than 200 people who gathered at UMSL Monday morning to get instructions and assignments for 14 different sites in the region in need of volunteers. The annual event, led by the Office of Student Life and also sponsored by the local offices of Teach for America and VISTA, is part of the Students of Service initiative at the university.

Wes Moore speaks at UMSL

Wes Moore speaks at UMSL Monday in observance of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. (Photo by Maurice Meredith)

The event was one of two held at UMSL to observe the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. More than a thousand people attended the annual MLK event at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center. The speaker was Wes Moore, author of the N.Y. Times bestseller “The Other Wes Moore” a story of two men with the same name – one a Rhodes Scholar and TV host, the other a convicted felon.

Williams, a self-confessed city girl, was one of a dozen volunteers assigned to Earth Dance Farms, a nonprofit organization that runs an organic farm school and farm in Ferguson, Mo. The volunteers worked outdoors, warmed by the sun, which unfortunately made for some slippery going in the mud. Williams was definitely challenged, but smiled through most of it.

Earth Dance has been operating for five years on the former Mueller Farm, in Ferguson, the oldest organic farm in Missouri.

Using a pitchfork, Williams’ first assignment was to fill a wheelbarrow with dried corn stalks and evergreen branches and deliver it to another group armed with rakes. They were creating a path in the mud from the farm’s hoop house where early lettuce was already sprouting to an outdoor workstation.

MLK Day of Service at UMSL

UMSL students (from left) Chad Ollendick, a freshman biology major, Marlee Thomas, a junior biology major, and David Sterati, a sophomore engineering major were excited about the university’s volunteer initiative to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Thomas said she participated last year and had a lot of fun. She convinced her friends they would find the experience rewarding. (Photo by Maureen Zegel)

The two groups finished quickly and moved on to the next chore, led by Matt Lebon, Earth Dance volunteer coordinator.

Sitting at a weathered picnic table and surrounded by brightly colored paint cans were UMSL seniors Bailey Kinney, a media studies major, Carly Fite, a graphic design major, Danelle Tate, a business administration major, and Megan Green, who heads up UMSL’s new student programs. They were painting and decorating wooden signs to identify plots for various vegetables and herbs.

UMSL volunteers served 530 hours at 14 nonprofit service organizations located in the city of St. Louis and St. Louis and St. Charles counties.

Visit the Great Rivers Greenway blog for additional coverage of the UMSL students’ MLK Day of Service efforts.

Maureen Zegel

Maureen Zegel

Eye on UMSL: Walk about

Oluchi Onyegbula, a psychology major and co-president of the Able-Disable Partnership, leads an accessibility walk Thursday on the UMSL campus.