The MLK day of service asks guests to think about Educational Justice

On Jan. 19, Washington State University Vancouver Student Diversity hosted the annual Martin Luther King Day of Service. An estimated 150 people came to the event, including students, faculty and staff, as well as members of the Vancouver community. This year’s focus for the event was on educational justice, with activities, music, interactive workshops, and a keynote speech by Charlene Williams.
The event kicked off with the song “Lift Ev’ry Voice” performed by Washington State University Vancouver’s own Trenelle Doyle. After the song, awards were handed out to clubs and organizations on campus that donated 100 or more items to the school supply fundraiser for both the Vancouver and Evergreen school districts. Over 1,000 items were donated from all the organizations combined. Doyle then sang another song titled “A Change Is Gonna Come” before the participants dispersed to attend workshops and presentations.
A variety of workshops were offered during the event. The workshop “College Access Champions: 10 things we can do to promote a college-going culture in our communities” challenged the notion that the act of going to college rests solely in the hands of the individual students and families.
“6 Things Everyone Should Know About Supporting Dreamers and the Real Hope Act” offered participants the chance to learn about how we both as individuals and a community can contribute to educational success of undocumented students.
“Racial Equality in Schools: Through Students’ Eyes” focused on the question “What does injustice look like through the eyes of students?” and offered participants a chance to hear from experienced educators as well as add their own thoughts to the matter.
The last workshop was titled “Drumming for Justice.” Participants learned about Taiko, a Japanese percussion instrument that became a powerful symbol of voice and identity during the Civil Rights Movement. Participants in this workshop had the chance to play alongside the instructors and learn some basic Taiko rhythms and expressions.
Following the workshop, lunch was provided as keynote speaker Charlene Williams addressed the audience. Williams serves as Senior Director for School Performance at Portland Public School. She has worked in both public and private educational institutes as well as middle, college, and high school environments. Williams wanted those present to be fired up about educational justice, recalling her own past with education and how her teachers once told her that there were not enough women in the fields of math and science, challenging her to do something about it.
“The struggle still exists 20 years later and we have to do something about it. Success is gained from dynamic people making adjustments with a critical lens. Adjustments, not excuses!” Williams said, “We have to look in the mirror and address the truth about what is impacting the youth today. Honest work begins with honest answers.”
Williams shared her own personal examples of the strides she and others have made at Roosevelt High School with these beliefs and practices in mind. During her time as principal of Roosevelt High School, Williams led many successful efforts to improve overall academic performance. This effort involved a collaborative grant writing process that resulted in an award of $7.7 million to help transform her school, a school that had a history of low achievement and public scrutiny.
Williams concluded her speech with a quote from Nelson Mandela: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” Her wish was to encourage excellence from everyone present and for those in attendance to encourage excellence in others.
The day’s festivities ended with a community dialogue led by members of the American Democracy Project. The members asked those present to discuss in small groups questions on the topics of raising awareness for educational justice, changing inequality in the school systems, and using skills that were learned about and taught at the MLK event to help the community.
The American Democracy Project tabled all day during the event and asked participants, “What does educational justice mean to you?” as well as ways to get involved, such as contacting local legislators via postcard or letter.
Amanda Shannahan, advisor to WSU Vancouver’s student diversity office, spoke on the event’s purpose. “To celebrate Martin Luther King, but also to help build the community. The diversity of the group today was amazing; our oldest guest was 97. Also, events like these familiarize people with our campus and what is possible in higher education.”

For more information about other upcoming events put on by Washington State University Vancouver Student Diversity their office is located in the Firstenburg Student Commons Room 136. Office hours are from Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., and can also be reached by calling 360-546-9568, or by visiting their website at http://studentaffairs.vancouver.wsu.edu/student-diversity.


MLK Hundred Club-cropped

MLK Hundred Club

MLK Taiko Drum

MLK Taiko Drummers


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