On January 13, 44 students from New Rochelle met at the New Rochelle Public Library to honor the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by working on two service projects, discussing 35 of MLK’s most memorable quotes and joining adult guests in the library lobby for a Southern-style community dinner provided by AJ’s Burgers. This memorable day was hosted by My Brother’s Keeper New Rochelle, and the service projects were created and run by representatives from Volunteer New York!
The students began the day taking T-shirts and crafting them into colorful chew toys for dogs. The 66 dog chew toys created were distributed to the ASPCA and the Humane Society of Westchester. During the second service project, students created laundry sachets with inspirational messages attached. These 66 laundry sachets were given to shelters and other community organizations that serve low-income residents.
“We really wanted to encourage our students to serve in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., so partnering with Volunteer New York! on their MLK Weekend of Service really made sense,” notes Councilman Jared Rice, co-chair of MBKNewRo. “What better time to encourage student volunteerism than on the weekend we celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King’s passion for service and justice,” echoes Reggie Richardson, Principal of New Rochelle High School and co-chair of MBKNewRo.
“Volunteer New York! is committed to growing volunteerism in New Rochelle,” said Volunteer New York! Executive Director, Alisa H. Kesten. “We’re absolutely thrilled in the success and spirit of this event to bring volunteers and community members together to celebrate the legacy, teachings and impact of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”
Special guest Michael Armstrong, General Manager of BET Networks, spoke with the students about the need to prioritize service in their lives. Armstrong is Chairman of the Board for both NAMIC (National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications) and the Dance Theatre of Harlem.
Another highlight of the day was seen in a unique project created by volunteer Michelene McCullough, who distributed photo cards featuring 35 of MLK’s most famous quotes to each student as well as some of the adult guests. Most of the students read their quote and talked about what it meant to them. Distinguished guests Mayor Noam Bramson, GM of BET Networks Michael Armstrong and MBKNewRo co-chairs Councilman Rice and Principal Richardson spoke about their favorite MLK quotes. “The students really seemed to enjoy hearing some of the words and thoughts Martin Luther King, Jr. expressed more than 50 years ago, ideals and ideas that still resonate with young and old today, even those that were born 30 years after Dr. King spoke them,” notes McCullough.
Singer Lady Holly of Bedrock Studios concluded the service portion of the day by leading attendees in a rousing rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which has been called the “Black American National Anthem.”
The day was so successful that MBKNewRo co-chairs Rice and Richardson hope it will become a yearly event.
On April 29th, 2015, New Rochelle became the first community in Westchester County and one of the first in New York State to accept President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Challenge. Seven additional communities in the Lower Hudson Valley and another 250 cities and towns across the country have joined the My Brother’s Keeper initiative, which is designed to help close the opportunity gaps for boys and young men of color and help all students flourish.
To learn more about MBKNewRo, visit the initiative’s website at mbknewro.com or follow the group’s posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. To volunteer, donate or connect the initiative to resources, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.