Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “The surest way to be happy is to seek happiness for others.” Student volunteers from Penn State New Kensington followed this advice when they spent this year’s MLK Jr. Day of Service completing community projects with other Penn State students throughout the region on Jan. 15.
Although Penn State students traditionally have the day off from classes for the federal holiday, volunteers make it a “day on” to honor the life and legacy of King.
The national MLK Jr. Day of Service has become an annual, multi-campus affair between New Kensington and other western campuses. This year, participating campuses also included Beaver, Behrend, Fayette and Shenango. Each year, a different campus leads the charge and chooses the projects.
“By joining forces across the western campuses, the regional day of service is able to have a larger impact on a community,” said Michele Marcks, assistant director of student affairs at Penn State New Kensington.
This year, four New Kensington students – Tyler Campbell, Ally Clark, Shannon Josefoski and Ashley Worlds – traveled to Penn State Behrend with Marcks to be part of the contingency of 50 students. Projects for the day included sorting coats at a homeless shelter, painting at a transitional housing shelter, creating bulletin boards for a community center, cleaning bicycles and spending time with residents at a retirement center.
Josefoski, senior business major, spent her time cleaning bicycles with the Sisters of St. Joseph Neighborhood Network. Broken and used bikes are fixed and cleaned and then given to children and immigrants living in Erie.
“I never thought something as simple as a nice bike can impact an individual,” pondered Josefoski. “We take something like transportation for granted in our everyday lives. I hope whoever gets the bike I worked on has one less thing to worry about.”
In addition to the service aspect of the event, Marcks pointed out the importance of Penn State campuses being part of communities across Pennsylvania.
"As Penn Staters, no matter which community surrounds your campus, your campus is a vital part of the community just as the community is a vital part of the campus. We have to take care of this relationship and work to make one another, both the campus and the community, stronger."
— Michele Marcks, assistant director of student affairs, Penn State New Kensington
Although some of the New Kensington students in attendance participated in the day of service in the past, Marcks believes the event this year made an especially lasting impact.
“All of the students responded with wanting to continue doing community service in the future, both while at Penn State and beyond,” exclaimed Marcks.