With temperatures below 20 degrees and a brisk wind blowing, the morning of Monday, January 21, 2019, would have been the perfect day to stay under the covers. But for the UNC Asheville community, it was the perfect day to rise early, brave the cold, and spend Martin Luther King Jr. Day engaged in service learning.
About 50 students and 10 staff members volunteered with other members of the community through the MLK Partnership for Change, a collaboration between UNC Asheville, United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County, and Mission Health. Volunteers were stationed at 15 different service sites throughout the county, with UNC Asheville volunteers serving at Asheville Middle School, Enka Middle School, Shiloh Community Garden and with Brother Wolf Animal Rescue.
“We’re so happy to help and we’re so blessed to have the opportunity to help others, and make a difference and make a change,” said Abril Ruiz-Lopez, a sophomore biology major who was helping to clean and sanitize classrooms at Asheville Middle School with about 30 other students. “It may be small, but added all up they all make a difference,” she said.
Sanitizing classrooms may feel like a small contribution, said Hayley Livers, a junior biology major, but “it’s such a big thing because this will help not only the teachers and their students, but it will help their families and their friends to not get sick and not miss their education.”
“That’s the main thing, we want our kids to be healthy and be in an environment where they feel comfortable and safe,” Ruiz-Lopez said.
After the service day concluded and volunteers had a chance to reflect on their service over lunch, many headed downtown to join the Asheville community for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Peace March and Rally, with jackets, scarves, and the contentment of a job well done to keep them warm.