BOONE, N.C. — As spring semester kicks off at Appalachian State University, more than 200 students gear up for the university’s annual MLK Challenge. Organized by Appalachian and the Community Together (ACT) office, the MLK Challenge is an all-day philanthropy event that takes place throughout the community.
While helping some 20 community organizations, students develop new skills, connect with others and get involved on campus. It’s a chance for students to get outside their comfort zones, Associate Director of Student Programs Kate Johnson has said.
Appalachian students gather at Legends at 8 a.m. for a day of fellowship, service and education. The MLK Challenge begins with an Opening Ceremony. Then, students divide into groups of about 10 people. Each group is assigned a challenge – a task to complete by the end of the day that will benefit an organization or individual in Boone.
Challenges might be cleaning out animal cages at the Blue Ridge Wildlife Institute or painting for a local organization such as the Children’s Playhouse, explained Rachel Ertl, a senior at Appalachian and co-chair of the ACT office.
“Challenges are a way to engage our students with the Boone community. A lot of education takes place just by letting people know about the cool things our community does,” Ertl said.
Make a difference through service
Service is highly valued here at Appalachian, and the MLK Challenge is one of ACT’s and the university’s largest philanthropy events. ACT fuels students’ passion for making a difference by providing opportunities such as the MLK Challenge for community service and service-learning. In the past 10 years, ACT has contributed more than $21.7 million of value to the community, using the $23.07 per hour national standard for volunteer time, according to the ACT office.
Created by Jenny Koehn in 1999, the MLK Challenge has grown exponentially. The ACT office strives to recognize King not only for his work with the civil rights movement, but for his overall message of social justice, Koehn has said.
Social justice is a popular and important movement at Appalachian, so the teachings and celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are relevant on campus. The MLK Challenge is a way to promote social justice while giving back to the community. After completing their challenges, groups return to Legends to participate in a group reflection about social justice issues encountered throughout the day, Ertl said.
“Issues range from animal cruelty to poverty, hunger and at-risk youth,” Ertl said. “Believe it or not, these things are all very prevalent in our community. We honor Dr. King not by having a day off from school, but by having a day of service and education.”
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About Diversity and Inclusion at Appalachian
Appalachian State University is committed to developing and allocating resources to the fundamental task of creating a diverse campus culture. We value diversity as the expression of human similarities and differences, as well as the importance of a living and learning environment conducive to knowledge, respect, acceptance, understanding and global awareness. Learn more at http://diversity.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the Southeast, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives. App State is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System, with a national reputation for innovative teaching and opening access to a high-quality, affordable education for all. The university enrolls more than 21,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and 80 graduate majors at its Boone and Hickory campuses and through App State Online. Learn more at https://www.appstate.edu.