Penn Charter celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service by answering one of King's calls to action: "Life's most persistent and urgent question is 'What are you doing for others?'”
More than 250 students, parents and teachers served area organizations – many of them regular service partners – such as Whosoever Gospel Mission, DePaul House, Share, Turning Points, Face to Face, Sanctuary Farms, Treehouse Books, Atria Senior Living, St. Raymond's and local homeless shelters. They bagged lunches, made blankets and care cards, assembled hygiene bags, packed boxes of food, made reusable food storage bags to help reduce plastic waste, and more.
"Monday was a reflection of our school's central theme this year, 'Honoring the Light Within,' as we came together to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King, learn about our community partners, and give our time and attention to support their important work," said Alyson Goodner, director of the Center for Public Purpose. "It was wonderful to see our students and families across the three divisions working side by side.
"A number of student-led initiatives reflected our students' authentic interest in understanding the most pressing social issues of Philadelphia, their collaborative work with our community partners, their creativity in designing projects that will have immediate and lasting impacts, and their commitment to sharing their work with the PC community."
Those student-led initiatives included making reusable snack bags that will be sold to support beach cleanups in New Jersey organized by Love Blue; packing 500 lunches and making felt blankets that the Food Security Club then handed out to Philadelphians experiencing homelessness; handmade soap cutting and packaging by the Microfinance Club to raise money to benefit St. Raymond's; creating seed packs to support Food Moxie, which promotes growing and eating healthy food; and a new project led by two fifth graders graders to upcycle discarded chip bags into earrings and then donate proceeds to the Pennsylvania SPCA.
Harold Anderson OPC '19, keynote speaker and a current student at the University of Pennsylvania, set the tone for the day, offering his reflections on our shared humanity.
"How do we stay human in our lives?" he considered. "What does that even mean? What does that look like? I still don’t have a firm definition on it. However, as learning to be human is such a personal journey, I will share with you my path to understanding in hopes to shed light on your own."
Anderson's path led him to the writings and speeches of Martin Luther King, whom he has admired since elementary school. "I marveled at the way he gracefully fought for the humanity of his people, and everyone at large," responding with love and nonviolence, Anderson said.
"Something about that was very human to me, and I was interested to learn more. I wanted to have something like a conversation with him."
So Anderson sought in King's words answers to the questions he would like to ask him. "I listen not for answers, really, but for insight to understanding the human he is.
"I questioned what his take on today's society would be. An answer that so eerily resonates today ... came in his saying, “History will have to record the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people."
"I went into the conversation already wanting to be a hero like Dr. King, and I left the conversation wanting to a human like Dr. King.
"This day is Dr. King's reminder to be human – a reminder that we are socially responsible for one another by nature."
Later in the day, students led information sessions about current issues and movements in Philadelphia, such as food security, social entrepreneurship, and sexuality and gender equality.
See photos of the MLK Day of Service.