On Jan. 19, our newly inaugurated President Barack Obama called upon the American people to join him in commemoration of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his historical legacy.
This day not only celebrates Dr. King’s accomplishments, but in light of this ground-breaking election, a brand new chapter in U.S. history.
Obama also urged Americans to use this day to give back to the community — to take the day “on” and not the day “off.”
This National Day of Service, which would have been Dr. King’s 80th birthday, had a projected 12,000 service projects across the country. Originally created by Congress in 1994, the National Day of Service was specifically established to honor Dr. King.
Not just nationally, but locally, Santa Cruzans also answered Obama’s call to community service and dedicated their holiday to benefiting others. From beach cleanup days to Hurricane Katrina fundraisers to simply holding the door open for someone, people used the day to make a difference and only expect a smile in return.
But as inspiring and rewarding as this day may be, it is our responsibility as citizens to keep the ball rolling and live a charitable life in general. While people might find time to give back a difficult thing to pencil into their schedules, it is really the little things that matter.
For the average college student, community service is often an assumed priority, but not always an action. With midterms and finals looming around every corner and a degree to worry about, the standard Slug seems to hardly even have time to plan his or her next meal.
However, by simply finding on- and off-campus resources, there are countless things that students and community members can both do to make a difference while still keeping their lives in order.
President Obama’s administration aims to not only promote a day of service but a “culture of service,” expanding both the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps and creating many more service organizations.
However, it is not the government’s full responsibility to create a charitable nation. It is up to each and every one of us to take that extra time to make our mark in the world. And as our new president declared on his inauguration day, the spirit of service is “a willingness to find meaning in something greater than [oneself]. And yet, at this moment — a moment that will define a generation — it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all. For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies.”
<b>How to Help Out in Santa Cruz</b>
<b>Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Monterey County</b>
Founded in 1904, Big Brothers, Big Sisters is the oldest and largest youth mentoring group in America. This group uses after-school mentors for different activities.
<b>The Salvation Army Youth Center</b>
An essential part of the Christian church, the Salvation Army aims to create a healthy and safe environment for children.
<b>Homeless Garden Project</b>
Created in 1990 by the Santa Cruz Committee for the Homeless, this nonprofit organization formed to provide job training, garden work, and educational tours.
<b>Coastal Watershed Council</b>
Established in 1995, the Coastal Watershed Council (CWC) is a public education nonprofit organization. CWC advocates the conservation of natural habitats and watersheds, and offers numerous different volunteer opportunities.
<b>American Red Cross</b>
Originally founded in 1881, the American Red Cross provides numerous opportunities to make a difference, from CPR/First Aid classes to weekend trips for hurricane relief. Ninety-six percent of their total work force is volunteer staff. Even a simple online donation can create an impact.
For those really willing to go that extra mile one day, the Peace Corps provides that opportunity. Established in the 1960s, the Peace Corps is a two-year time commitment, and can be an unforgettable and eye-opening experience. The UCSC campus office is located on the lower level of the KZSC building, room 103.
For on-campus volunteer options, be sure to check the UCSC Student Volunteer Center for campuswide updates.