June 18, 2024

Dozens of middle school students filled Shouvlin Center classrooms to learn how they can be advocates in the Springfield community during the MLK Day of Service on Saturday, Feb. 1.

The Hagen Center event, planned by students Mackenzie Hill (’20) and Caroline Warner (’20), brought together the student council from Roosevelt Middle School and the builder’s club from Hayward Middle School. Kristen Collier, director of the Hagen Center, said the intention of the program was to bring together the students from these different schools so they can get to know each other before they all attend the same high school.

“They can recognize familiar faces since they’re all going to be wildcats together,” Collier said. 

In the spirit of meeting new friends, the first part of the day was a get-to-know-you activity. Students were asked to change one thing about their appearance and took turns guessing what was different about each person. Whether a student took off their shoes or unbuttoned their jacket, the event used this to teach the importance of noticing small details in their relationships.

The activity was followed by an education station that discussed with students the advocacy work of Martin Luther King Jr. and how individual talents can be used for community and worldwide advocacy.

According to Sarah Hartman (’21), a Wittenberg volunteer at the event, the middle-schoolers offered unique perspectives, discussing the importance of bringing new people into advocacy and the importance of advocating for issues such as homelessness. For most students, this is not their first event at Wittenberg.

Wittenberg volunteers led these discussions, and students were split into groups based on their interests in advocacy–environmental, hunger, education and housing. Their interests and talents were used to form civic action plans that can be implemented in their communities. By the end of the morning, students had posters outlining action plans and were sharing their philanthropic ideas.

“This generation is the one that will change some of our issues,” Hartman said. “They want to connect. It’s important for Witt students to know that people in this community want to connect.”

Advocacy was incorporated into the day through the general discussion as well as a rendition of “No Matter What, I’m Gonna Keep on Praisin’ the Lord” by the Imani Gospel Choir that was performed at the MLK Convocation last week. The event also featured vistas from Promise Neighborhood and guests from Springfield City Schools to help connect campus to community.

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