Honoring a Legacy of Service

IU Southeast students volunteer on MLK Day

Members of Phi Kappa Alpha lend a helping hand by putting together office furniture at Our Place Drug and Alcohol Services.

Jordan Williams

Members of Phi Kappa Alpha lend a helping hand by putting together office furniture at Our Place Drug and Alcohol Services.

Jan. 18 marked the 31st national celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Rather than using the holiday to decompress after the first week of classes, IU Southeast students spread throughout New Albany for a day of community outreach.

As students students eat pizza, Channell Barbour thanks them for their involvement with the community outreach.
As students students eat pizza, Channell Barbour thanks them for their involvement with the community outreach.

After gathering on campus for a short meeting, buses shuttled volunteers to different locations in need of assistance, including Choices for Women, Autumn Woods Health Campus and Our Place Drug and Alcohol Services, while other students remained on campus to complete tasks in the University Center.

This is the third consecutive year students have utilized the holiday to help others in the community. In total, more than 80 students signed up up to participate, which doubles the near 40 students that contributed in 2015. The success of the event can be attributed to the combined efforts of individuals from Campus Life and student organizations. Participating groups included several fraternities and sororities, the Asian Pop-culture Club, and The Dining Hall, with many other students volunteering their time independently.

Dakota Brooks, an education major, helped lead the event. “Using the organization as a resource was very beneficial,” said Brooks. “With the cold weather and school being out, it was awesome to have a good  turnout. I’m very appreciative of the effort the students have made to come out here on their day off and give back to the community.”

Channell Barbour, associate director of Campus Life, has helped coordinate daily events for the week of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which began with a breakfast Saturday and will conclude with the Voices of Change Speech Contest on February 3. The day of service was a way of re-establishing the university’s presence in the area.

“Since Dr. Ray Wallace has been chancellor, one of the things we wanted to do was to insert ourselves back into the community, so the community knows that IU Southeast is here,” said Barbour.

To Barbour, performing community service on Martin Luther King Jr. Day was a decision made with more in mind than the convenience of there being no classes.

“It goes along with Dr. King’s legacy. His dream was to bring blacks and whites together. He wanted to see them serving and helping others in the community,” she said.

The holiday, according to Barbour, shouldn’t be looked at as a day off, but instead a ‘day on’ where people across the nation venture into their communities on a mission to help others.

“It’s about going out there to help people who might be less fortunate than you are, so you can make a difference in your own community,” she said. “It was cold, and the students could have taken the day off. But they didn’t want to. They actually wanted to come and do some service, then go on their merry way. That was important to see the students here rally around and support these efforts.”

Dakota Brooks was praised by many involved with the event for his ability to get students involved on campus. Much of his time is spent performing his role as the Support Specialist for the roughly 600 21st Century Scholars on campus. Every month he plans gatherings that include educational workshops meant to assist the scholars in their academic careers. In addition to the duties associated with 21st Century Scholars, he also collaborates with Campus Life to plan events throughout the year similar to the community outreach.

“IU Southeast does a great job of programming events. All the work Campus Life has done has been very helpful,” he said.

[Dr. King’s] dream was to bring blacks and whites together. He wanted to see them serving and helping others in the community.”

— Channell Barbour Associate Director of Campus Life

Brooks credits Seuth Chaleunphonh, Dean of Student Life, as being someone who is vital to the organization and the community outreach event. “Really promoting direct service is what we’re trying to do,” said Chaleunphonh.

Chaleunphonh’s day of service was spent cleaning Choices for Women’s recently renovated building on Spring Street. “It’s a little bit different from raising money,” he said. “It’s trying to get the students out in the community and find out what these organizations are doing.”

According to Chaleunphonh, another benefit of the hands-on nature of the event is the potential building of student camaraderie.

“During these shoulder to shoulder experiences, people are less guarded,” he said. “They’re going to share and hang out in the common cause to help others.”

Clayton Rose, the treasurer of Pi Kappa Alpha, spent his day leading volunteers at Our Place Drug and Alcohol Services in downtown New Albany. “[Pi Kappa Alpha] has plenty of stuff throughout the year that we do for community service. When something comes up, we get a bunch of guys together and go do it. We came to Our Place last year and organized the garage they have,” said Rose.

Members of Phi Kappa Alpha lend a helping hand by putting together office furniture at Our Place Drug and Alcohol Services.
Members of Pi Kappa Alpha lend a helping hand by putting together office furniture at Our Place Drug and Alcohol Services.

Joined by members of his fraternity as well several other students, Rose and his team helped the staff at Our Place perform various tasks ranging from filing documents to building office furniture.

Among the other volunteers present was Katie Walsh, a senior and member of the Alpha Phi sorority. Though the sorority has contributed mainly to Choices for Women for the past three years, many members decided to spend their time at Our Place this year.

“We donate items to Choices for Women on a monthly basis, and we go over there once a semester to do whatever they need us to. We’ve never been to Our Place, so we wanted to come and do something different,” said Walsh.

When thinking of the years to come, Dakota Brooks is optimistic about finding ways to increase community outreach efforts on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. “We have talked about partnering with the Boys and Girls Club of New Albany and Exit Zero in Louisville, which is a nonprofit organization that helps out with the homeless population,” Brooks said. “Hopefully, with the turnout we’ve had this year,in the future we can have more students, more site locations, and keep expanding. It’s just a matter of getting the word out.”