On MLK Jr. Day, Heidelberg forgoes day off to focus on service, King’s message

On MLK Jr. Day, Heidelberg forgoes day off to focus on service, King’s message

Instead of a paid day off, the Heidelberg University community came together on Martin Luther King Jr. Day Monday for a Day ON! With specific development activities centered around the theme of diversity, awareness, acceptance and inclusion, the campus community participated in a series of workshops and programming in the morning designed to foster a deeper understanding of the theme. In the afternoon, faculty, staff and students participated in community service activities both on- and off campus.

Ultimately, the goal is to inspire long-lasting, positive change and a deeper appreciation and understanding for diversity, equity and inclusion, in the spirit of the life and messages of Dr. King.

“This is big change for our campus,” said Margaret Rudolph, Chief Human Resources Officer and Title IX Coordinator. You could even call it historic. “We took a former holiday, moved it to later in the semester, and replaced it with our Day ON!”

Rudolph explained that idea for MLK Jr. Day ON! at Heidelberg bubbled up last spring when Heidelberg formed the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee (DEIC). She is a tri-chair of that committee, along with Douglas Stoll and Dr. DoHee Kim-Appel.

The day began with the campus community listening to King’s famed “I Have a Dream” speech. 

At that welcoming assembly, President Rob Huntington said he hopes that Heidelberg’s inaugural Day ON! leads to “a better, stronger, more on-the-right-side-of-history community going forward.”

“Today’s work, the celebration of Dr. King’s spirit, still matters,” Huntington said.

Introducing the “I Have a Dream” speech, Heidelberg Chaplain Paul Stark said the issues identified in Dr. King’s speech are the same problems of injustice and inequity today. “This is a celebration of the past but also a reality check,” Stark said. “Racism and poverty are still with us. Together, we need to work toward life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all people.”

Following the opening gathering, faculty and staff chose from various workshops and presentations in the morning, such as Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Jeopardy, the “I Have a Dream” relay, safe zone training and a theatrical presentation by students of Dr. King’s letters from the Birmingham Jail. In the afternoon, they fanned out to complete such service projects as writing letters to veterans and senior citizens, planning for a professional dress closet, organizing items collected in a campus food drive, making no-sew  blankets, visiting with residents of senior living facilities, helping with tasks at non-profit organizations such as cleaning and painting, among other activities.

“We tried to find a lot of different activities for different interests and abilities,” Rudolph said. “This is exciting. It’s the first time we’ve done something of this scope. We’re anxious to see it unfold and learn how to make it better going forward.”

Ultimately, the DEIC hopes the day will inspire change, not only on campus but in the community. “We want this to be long-term and sustainable, not just one day and done,” Rudolph said. 

Heidelberg students were involved in a number of the activities, as well as the community’s MLK Day public celebration Monday night. Junior Ayanna Hayes served as emcee and the Heidelberg Concert Choir performed during the event.

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