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MLK holiday ‘a day on, not a day off’

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a national holiday from class and work, but several hundred humanitarians will show up to Northeastern’s campus on Monday to participate in service projects and workshops focused on improving the community.

“We like to say it’s a day on, not a day off,” said Kristen Doggett, director of the university’s Center for Community Service, which organized the King Day of Service and Leadership. The annual event draws some 300 Northeastern students and members of local community groups and youth programs. Approximately 50 Boston residents will participate in this year’s program as part of the National Day of Service, a component of President Obama’s second inauguration.

The annual event is funded through a grant from the Massachusetts Service Alliance and focuses on four core themes: strengthening communities, empowering individuals, bridging barriers, and creating solutions. Participants will take part in three hour-long sessions, each of which will be focused on one or more of the day’s themes.

Group activities aim to engage participants representing a wide range of backgrounds. Photo by Mary Knox Merrill.

At last year’s service day, fifth-year psychology major Molly Bloom planted sustainable gardens, painted murals for local hospitals, and made supplies for programs through Jumpstart, a national early-education organization. She is eager to once again participate in the program.

“These events are important because they allow Northeastern students to become more involved in the surrounding communities,” said Bloom, a Jumpstart volunteer. “It’s a chance to make new friends and get involved with new opportunities that they may not have known about beforehand.”

Yves Singletary, a senior fellow with the Massachusetts Promise Fellowship, an AmeriCorps program administered by Northeastern, took a group of Brockton, Mass., high-school students to last year’s service day. This year he is leading a panel discussion on teen dating violence, an issue he addresses daily through his work with the Boston Public Health Commission.

About 350 people are expected attend this year’s service day, to be held Monday in the Curry Student Center. Photo by Mary Knox Merrill.

“I had a great experience last year, so this time I wanted to return as a facilitator,” Singletary said. “I think events like this break down walls—everyone wants to help out the community, and service days like this really bring people together. You get a chance to address issues that everyone might have some understanding of, but bringing a wide range of perspectives opens up the discussion in ways you could never have expected.”

Registration for this year’s service day is full, but members of the Northeastern community can add their names to a waiting list. The Center for Community Service offers volunteer events throughout the year, all of which can be found on its website.