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Drew Students Connect with the Community in Honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Connection and reflection organized by the Center for Civic Engagement and the Office of Student Engagement

February 2023 – In remembrance and celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Drew University students visited the Morristown Neighborhood House, a long-standing community partner, to engage in conversations about how community service is beneficial, both personally and professionally.

“It was a really shocking experience to see what a communal place it is,” said Eden Linton C’24, referring to the Morristown Neighborhood House. “Kids do feel safe outside of home. I was reminded from being in that space that as long as I am involved in community service, I’m giving back to the community that pours back into me.”

Through an exchange of ideas, experience, and reflection with the Morristown Neighborhood House’s elementary, middle, and high school aged youth groups and their respective families, the group answered the question, “how does community serves you?”

“I talked about the importance Drew has on my life,” said Khyri Fortenberry C’24. “We talked a lot about college and college admissions and the importance of the presence of community service on college applications.”

“Community service for me started in my house, helping my family,” he continued. “I realized my mom was tired after work, so I cooked and cleaned. As I got older, I began to project that onto the entire world around me—the importance of helping other people and how that pushes us all forward as a community.”

“The children were able to attend an event involving education, volunteering, and giving back from people who look like them,” said Adia Harris, before and after school supervisor at the Morristown Neighborhood House. “To me, that’s the most impactful thing in the world. It gave them some inspiration and hope. It was a necessary event for our community.”

The gathering included a performance by the Morristown Unity Steppers Dance and Drill Team, a community-based step and drill team representing all schools in the Morristown School District.

The premise for the event was born through Coordinator of Diversity and Inclusion Planning Monica Madera’s experience as an AmeriCorp member. “A lot of my duties in that position were to go into the neighborhoods and work with students one on one and help them navigate their transition or path into college,” she said. “I think it’s important for my students to give back—see who the next generation is and guide them.”

In the days following the event, the students reconvened on campus to reflect upon and share their experience with fellow students, faculty, and staff during a luncheon commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. Day, organized and hosted by Drew’s Center for Civic Engagement and the Office of Student Engagement.

The group also celebrated the career and accomplishments of Cordelza Hayes, Drew’s director, Frances B. Sellers/EOF program for over 20 years. “Our students acknowledged Cordelza and all of the hard work she has done for our students—setting the tone as a trailblazer on campus and an example of what excellency looks like,” said Madera.

“All students at Drew should experience community,” said Sean Hewitt, director for the Center of Civic Engagement. “To understand what community really looks like, they need to experience it themselves by listening and engaging authentically with the people both on and off campus.” 

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