PISCATAWAY, NJ — About 200 students and their families ventured out into the frigid Monday morning weather for a day of service at the Martin Luther King School in Piscataway, a school named in honor of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. whose life and legacy is commemorated for leading the charge for equality during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.
Signed into law as a national holiday in 1983, Martin Luther King Day is celebrated the third Monday every January. To further honor King’s legacy, Congress later designated it a national day of service in 1994, encouraging the country to participate in acts of service towards others.
“This is my fifth year at MLK School,” said Dr. C. Alex Gray, the school’s principal. “My entire time here I’ve been thinking about what we could do to honor the legacy of Dr. King. We’ve done little things over the years, but nothing that I really felt embodied what it meant to have the school named after him.”
And so, over the holiday break the idea came to Gray to hold a school-wide ‘day of service’ on the national ‘day of service’ where staff members and their families, along with students and theirs could come together to learn more about what it means to help those in need and what it means to be King School.
Stations were setup in the school’s cafeteria with activities that could be done by children of all ages and benefited local causes and charities.
“We tried to produce things that we could make in a short period of time, but also would be useful to those organizations,” said Gray.
The activities included:
- Making greeting cards with quotes, pictures and words of encouragement for hospitalized children.
- Arts & crafts activities where participants could learn more about Dr. King and his dream for equal rights for all.
- Making paper flower arrangements for the Piscataway Senior Center.
- Making dog and cat toys for the Plainfield Animal Shelter.
- Making place settings for Elijah’s Promise Community Kitchen.
- Making pillows for displaced families.
- Decorating paper hand cutouts with messages for a community poster.
“It only took two weeks to plan everything, which was amazing and a testament to the staff here that stepped up to come up with ideas and volunteered their time to make this a wonderful event,” said Gray who also thanked the district’s superintendent, Teresa Rafferty and the board of education for their support.
“We’re looking forward to building every year and that this will be an annual event that will outlive my time here at King,” he added. “Something that we will do for many years to come.”
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others,’” Dr. King once said.
“That’s the lesson we’re trying to teach, that we can do things to serve and help others,” said Gray.
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