Princeton faculty, staff and students take part in King Day of Service

Jan. 16, 2015 2 p.m.

Sitting in a small semi-circle, preschool students at Princeton Nursery School sat as still as preschoolers can while Princeton University staff member Alexandra Calcado read aloud from "Martin's Big Words: The Life of Martin Luther King Jr."

After Calcado, an administrative assistant in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, finished the book, she turned the lesson over to teacher Maria Forgione. Forgione asked her class of 4- and 5-year-old students, "How would you feel if you couldn't sit together?" "Really sad," said one child. "We wouldn't get to play together and we'd have to sit by ourselves," added another.

"That's right," said Forgione. "Martin Luther King thought this wasn't fair. We are all the same. That's why he was an important leader in our country and why we need to remember his work."

Calcado was one of about 30 Princeton University volunteers who on Thursday, Jan. 15, honored Dr. King's legacy by lending a hand at Princeton Nursery School in Princeton, Little Cherubs Head Start in Hamilton, Mercer Street Friends Food Bank in Ewing and the Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie in Trenton, as part of Princeton University's second annual Day of Service.

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As part of the Princeton University's day of service in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., a group of volunteers went to Princeton Nursery School. At left, freshman Charles Miller reads the illustrated book "Martin's Big Words" to a group of preschool children. At right, Karla Ewalt, associate dean for research in the Office of the Dean for Research, and freshman David Lind clean toys. (Photo at left by Denise Applewhite, Office of Communications; photo at right by Gwen McNamara, Pace Center for Civic Engagement)

Organized by the Office of the Provost with help from the Pace Center for Civic Engagement and Office of Religious Life, the day of service gave University staff, faculty and students a chance serve together as a precursor to the University's Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration on Monday, Jan. 19.

"Princeton's day of service is a wonderful way to affirm this University's commitment to the ideals of Dr. King and this country," said President Christopher L. Eisgruber. "I was pleased to be able to join several of my public-spirited co-workers and the terrific people at Mercer Street Friends. We worked hard, we contributed to our community, and we had fun. It was a marvelous experience, and I hope that I will be able to participate again next year."

After reading to the preschool classes, volunteers at Princeton Nursery School and Little Cherubs Head Start helped teachers with the day's activities. The University provided each school and each child with a copy of "Martin's Big Words."

At Mercer Street Friends, volunteers helped sort donated food and load pallets for pick-up by shelters and other food bank organizations in the region. At the Trenton City Museum, volunteers learned about how to clean and care for artifacts and worked on conservation and cleaning efforts.

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Volunteers also helped pack, sort and load food at Mercer Street Friends Food Bank in Ewing, New Jersey. From left, Elaine Willey, assistant dean in the Office of the Dean of the Graduate School, Angela Petsis, undergraduate administrator with the Princeton Environmental Institute, and Joyce Lang, a Mercer Street Friends volunteer, help sort food donations. At right, Princeton volunteers help build a pallet of food for pick-up by local food banks in the region. From left, the volunteers are Jeffrey Petsis, senior grant and contract administrator in the Office of Research and Project Administration; President Christopher L. Eisgruber; Alvin Daniel, technical support specialist in the Office of the Dean for Research; and Sorat Tungkasiri, coordinator in the New Media Center. (Photo at left by Gwen McNamara, Pace Center for Civic Engagement; photo at right by Denise Applewhite, Office of Communications)

"The Day of Service is just one of many ways that we fulfill Princeton's commitment to service," said Michele Minter, vice provost for institutional equity and diversity. "By working alongside our friends and neighbors, we honor not only the outstanding work being done every day by community organizations in our region, but we also honor Dr. King's efforts to catalyze justice and equality."

The volunteer support is critical for the community organizations as well. "There's no way we could do what we do without volunteers," said Brian Peterson, community resource liaison at Mercer Street Friends. "The kindness Princeton University has shown all through the years is amazing. It's so nice to see faculty, staff and students actually rolling up their sleeves, lifting together, building pallets of produce and food. It's simply wonderful."

Starting six years ago with Send Hunger Packing, a Student Volunteers Council weekly service project with the Pace Center that brings food to Ewing schools, the University's relationship with Mercer Street Friends has grown to include a week of service for incoming freshmen taking part in Community Action and the Day of Service.

"I'm so appreciative of Princeton for the opportunity to do this," said Angela Petsis, undergraduate administrator for Princeton Environmental Institute who volunteered at Mercer Street Friends. "It's great to represent the University. I did it last year and I'd do it again in a heartbeat."

Princeton University will commemorate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. with its annual King Day celebration in Richardson Auditorium of Alexander Hall. Doors open at 1 p.m. Cecilia Rouse, dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, will give the keynote address. The event, which is free and open to the public, will begin at 1:15 p.m. with a performance by the Trenton Children's Chorus.