Students celebrated the life and legacy of Dr. King with a day of service activities, sessions centered on diversity and inclusion, and community-building conversations.
At NCSSM, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is always a day on, not a day off. Students and staff celebrated the life and legacy of Dr. King with a day of service activities, sessions centered on diversity and inclusion, and community-building conversations. Many gathered in the PEC for the annual Unity Luncheon, and the afternoon culminated with a keynote speaker and presentation of NCSSM’s Keeper of the Dream Award.
More than 250 students, and many staff members, spent the morning off campus, serving across the Triangle at locations like local schools, parks, and nonprofits. A large group of students volunteered during the morning at the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, while another participated in the United Way meal-packing event at NC Central University. NCSSM’s National Society of Black Engineers chapter travelled to IBM to volunteer and inspire the future generation, and yet another group of students completed a service project at EK Powe Elementary school. Other groups participated in park clean-ups or built trails at the Eno River State Park.
Back on campus, students joined together in small group sessions, many of them led by other students. These sessions featured discussions and activities on civil rights, African and African American history, diversity, and inclusion. A Unity Luncheon brought together students, faculty, staff, families, and friends to engage in discussion and enjoy a meal together. Children of staff members also explored Dr. King’s dream through music, stories, art, poetry, dance, and games hosted by NCSSM’s library.
At the afternoon’s school-wide assembly, keynote speaker Bahari Harris spoke on Civil Rights icons, purpose, and community impact. Harris is founding director of Urban Hope, a faith-based, community development non-profit organization in Walltown, the community adjacent to NCSSM, where he resided and served for over 11 years before taking his current position. The interactive presentation incorporated audience surveys and Harris encouraged audience members to look up any unknown people or events he mentioned. Harris asked students, “How can you have the greatest impact in your own community?”, encouraging them to “jump in!” to make a difference.
The 2017 Keeper of the Dream Award winner was also recognized during the assembly. This award is given to an employee or friend of the school who, during their service to the institution and school community, has facilitated positive race relations; or exhibited leadership in advancing mutual respect, understanding, and appreciation for cultural and ethnic diversity; or encouraged and engaged in off-campus outreach activities; and exemplified compassion, goodwill, courage, or leadership.
Chancellor Todd Roberts presented this year’s award to Gerri Odum, noting in his remarks that Odum “has done all of this and more.” Odum has worked at NCSSM since 2011 and serves as the Assistant Director for Residence Education and as a Student Life Instructor. “We couldn’t have a better recipient than Gerri,” Chancellor Roberts continued. “Her actions day in and day out exemplify Dr. King’s work and help our school community move closer to recognizing his dream.”
In his closing remarks, Chancellor Roberts addressed the entire NCSSM community. “Thank you to the NCSSM community as a whole today for your work,” he said. “I’m always proud when I talk to my colleagues and others in the community and talk about how today NCSSM treats Dr. King’s birthday as a day on and not a day off. I think that there’s a lot to be learned and said for that, and for all that each of you has done today in our community, and in our school community, to help further Dr. King’s dream.”