School hosts MLK Service Day; students take time to give back

February 2, 2013 — by Michelle Leung and Priyanka Nookala
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Students gather in a day of service in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.

Approximately 135 students came to school for three hours on Martin Luther King Day to participate in National Service Day.

Approximately 135 students came to school for three hours on Martin Luther King Day to participate in National Service Day.

Students participated in a variety of activities such as making care packages and thank you cards for soldiers and Valentine cards for local senior citizens. In addition, students cooked Italian dinners for a family shelter in San Jose, prepared bag lunches for a local church that distributes meals to homeless people, packaged dehydrated meals for the Stop Hunger Now project and restored the landscape outside the McAfee Center.

For  freshmen who participated, the Service Day was a rewarding experience.

"I feel good about myself after, like I made a difference,” freshman Hannah Leney said. “I just feel like I helped someone out after."

Freshman Miles Albert was particularly inspired by the less fortunate in the world.

“I thought [Stop Hunger Now] was a really great thing to do since there are so many people all over the world who are starving,” Albert said. “I feel like we take everything we eat for granted and I really wanted to give to those who are actually in need. I realized that just putting in a little effort can really help someone.”

For junior Nina Jayashankar the service day was an opportunity  to come together as a school and community to help others.

“I thought it was kind of a nice way to do something and feel like you’re still having fun with friends at the same time,” Jayashankar said. “It just gives me happiness to know that spending some time  out of my weekend will put a smile on someone else’s face.”

Compared to last year when only 74 students came to the service day, this year there was a tremendous increase in student attendance and students took more active roles making the event a success.

“It was a joy to see how the ASB and student commissions helped publicize the event by putting up flyers, doing PA announcements and taking leadership roles in the activities,” parent and co-chair Nirmala Nookala said.

Student involvement went more smoothly this year not only because of students spreading the word to each other and taking more initiative to participate, but also because of the new technology students used to RSVP for their preferred activity.

Compared to Google Docs, which  the volunteers used last year, “Sign Up Genius allows sending mass emails to all the volunteers and it helps a lot with communication,” co-chair Sujatha Mudupalli said. “It was easy for the kids to sign up too and it protects personal information but they can see who is signed up for an activity and sign up with friends.”

With more student volunteers and help from committed parents and faculty, volunteers were able to put together 199 food care packages and 79 toiletry care packages using items donated by students and the community. A new project, Stop Hunger Now, was added to the MLK day agenda for this year.

Stop Hunger Now was able to accommodate 40 additional students. Within two hours they packaged 10,000 meals designed to be used in crisis situations and school feeding programs in developing countries. Each meal costs only $0.25, and contains 21 essential vitamins and minerals.

Mary Eschen, the lead parent for Stop Hunger Now, said that adding the event to the service day required coordination with both the SHS PTSO and the national Stop Hunger Now organization. This year the $2,500 was sponsored by a local foundation.

The Stop Hunger Now organization works to package meals efficiently and effectively for those in need. Eschen said that in contrast to other hunger organizations, Stop Hunger Now is more organized. The organization allows students the opportunity to make a difference while enjoying themselves.

“This organization provides for the world's hungry in a way that those of us who have so much learn about the issues of hunger while taking part in  a very fun, hands-on activity,” Eschen said.

Eschen believes that activities like Stop Hunger Now give those who are blessed a chance to give back and feel they have a positive impact on the world.
“When people give back we all feel the world is a better place,” Eschen said. “This event and MLK Service Day both have that impact.”

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