“I see the three little pigs!” a kindergartener exclaimed, excitement obvious in the way she waved her hand back and forth.
A chorus of agreement bombarded St. Petersburg Collegiate High School’s Principal Starla Metz who sat at the front of the class reading “Winston the Book Wolf.”
For the past four years, during the days leading up to Martin Luther King Jr. Day, St. Petersburg College has helped emphasize the idea of service – “A Day On, Not a Day Off.”
That has involved the college’s work with the MLK Day of Service Advisory Board. In addition, this year SPC brought students, staff and faculty – totaling 94 volunteers – to Pinellas County schools. Volunteers read stories, interacted with kindergarten through fifth-grade students and helped teachers with their everyday tasks on Friday, Jan. 15.
“I enjoyed reading to the kids, giving them something to get excited about,” said Jeff Cesta, Director of Dual and Early Enrollment at SPC.
“It’s important to inspire elementary age students to learn and go to college, and to ultimately find a career,” said Metz after reading her two stories to a class at Belcher Elementary.
Center for Civil Learning and Community Engagement
The event was coordinated by the Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement (CCLE). Taking social science to heart, the CCLE encourages engagement between the community and SPC.
Professor Tara Newsom, a social and behavioral science faculty member with the CCLE, said, “Our community engagement is very diverse, which correlates to the diversity of the students at SPC. We push students to get involved in volunteer positions that are a part of their field of study.”
Creating a web of workers passionate about SPC and the community has been a major reason for the success of the CCLE, Newsom said. Students can flourish under a model where completing required volunteer hours provides them a taste for their field of study in a real world setting. That, in turn, can help guide students to a successful career.
“The CCLE grows opportunities. You can say the CCLE are the coordinators and catalysts for civic engagement,” said Newsom.
2016 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service Projects
Linda Hogans, Executive Director for SPC’s Center of Excellence, is also proud of the work the college has done in the civic category as part of the MLK Day of Service.
With funding provided by the Florida legislature, the MLK Day of Service Advisory Board in collaboration with SPC awards funds to local organizations to host service projects scheduled in connection with the Jan. 18 holiday. These projects are part of the board’s annual effort to transform the holiday into “A Day On, Not a Day Off.”
Overseeing the MLK Day of Service Advisory Board, Hogans’ department has worked hard to put together many volunteer opportunities across Pinellas County.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a challenge as much as I’d say it’s an opportunity,” said Hogans, speaking of the success of these civic engagement campaigns.
This year alone, forty-five projects were given awards. Hogans highlighted one in particular, which involved the Association of Naval Service Officers working with shelters for impoverished children.
“They refurbished and cleaned up much of the place, and seeing the transformation over the months has been extremely uplifting,” she said.
The MLK Day of Service empowers the community and starts the new year off right, Hogans said.
“It is not just what we do on that day. It is what we do every day that just can’t be measured.”
See more photos on the college’s Facebook page.