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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

St. Joe’s community members serve for MLK Day

Members of the St. Joe’s field hockey team took part in OEC’s school beautification projects. PHOTOS: ZACH DOBINSON ’22/THE HAWK

Like many schools across the nation, the Overbrook Educational Center (OEC) was off from school for Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) Day on Jan. 20. However, those passing by wouldn’t have thought so given the amount of people entering and leaving the building.

As a part of the 25th annual national MLK Day of Service, the Office of Inclusion and Diversity (OID) brought 39 St. Joe’s students, staff and faculty to volunteer at the OEC. The federal holiday was designated a day of service in 1994, but Philadelphia, as a city, did not formally participate until 1996. They have participated annually since.

Imani Briscoe said, program specialist for inclusion and diversity experiential programming (IDEP), organized St. Joe’s participation in the day of service because she feels this will send a message letting everyone know that St. Joe’s understands they are a guest within the community.

In a classroom turned into an art room, Imani Briscoe, far left, and members of the women’s soccer team helped students make vision boards to promote student success.

“Our Jesuit values call us to be of service to something greater than ourselves and we intend to live up to our mission,” Briscoe said.

This year marks the sixth year the OEC has participated in the day of service. The school began participating in 2015 when its principal, Meredith Foote, introduced the opportunity.

St. Joe’s returned to the OEC for another year because of its efforts to be a “grounding educational institution,” along with its location sharing the same community as St. Joe’s, Briscoe said.

Caroline Robinson, the community school coordinator for the OEC, explained that when Foote first introduced the opportunity, there were roughly 40 volunteers who participated. This year, Robinson set the goal for 300 volunteers, which she believed to be aspirational. Robinson estimated that around 400 volunteers took part in the 2020 day of service.

“Our partners, students, families and staff really came through,” Robinson said. “We have a huge amount of people here today.”

Robinson explained that this year there were a plethora of projects happening at the OEC. Some include beautification projects throughout the school, voter registration signage projects and the gathering of toiletry bags that will be donated to a local homeless shelter.

“We try to do a balance of projects that are supporting the school and projects that are supporting the community, as well,” Robinson said.

Emily Peters ’21, a player on the St. Joe’s field hockey team, said she looked forward to the annual day of service and giving back to the community throughout the week leading up to it.

“We love giving back to the community so we always do service on MLK Day,” Peters said. “It’s really cool to see our team and other teams on campus giving back.”

In addition to the field hockey team, the entire women’s soccer team and members of the women’s tennis team also spent the morning volunteering. The teams were scattered throughout the school for most of the morning, but Peters and her teammates found themselves painting a mural with some of the children who attend the school.

“This was a really cool experience,” Peters said. “It was so much fun painting murals with the kids.”

Jordan El ’22 came to OEC in part with the OID but feels you don’t need to be a part of an organization in order to take part in volunteer work. For El, all it takes is an individual to make change.

“This is the first step: talking to the youth and doing your part in order to beautify the neighborhood,” El said. “Making sure that they’re educated, making sure they have the proper resources in order to truly succeed and truly be someone that we can look after and they can look after us in the future. That’s monumental.”

One of the main messages the OEC wants people to take home with them is community engagement, according to Robinson. Her personal motto is, “If I can, I will,” and Robinson uses that to drive home the importance of community engagement.

“I feel that if everyone adopted that value, if I have something to give, I’m going to give it,” Robinson said. “Whether it’s time, energy or whatever you have, if you can give that to someone else, you create a circle of support. When you have that, there are no limits to what you can do.”

At the end of the day, Robinson gets to sit down and see how much one day spent volunteering can accomplish. She said last year after all the volunteers left and everything was cleaned up and put away, she sat in the OEC’s gym and reflected on the day’s work.

“The amount that you can get done and the results that you can see when people choose to give their time, energy and talent, there’s no limit to what people can do,” Robinson said. “Imagine if you had one person trying to do all of these things. How long would that take them?”

Robinson also feels that the most important part about community engagement is just that: community. For her, coming together and getting things as a group will always yield a better result.

“That’s really what today’s about: bringing everyone together, working in teams to accomplish great things,” Robinson said. “The students we serve in school, we can serve them better when everyone’s working together. Everything that you do in work, education and life can be done better if you do it as a part of the team.”

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