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Changemakers in action: ASU students reflect on Dr. King’s legacy for MLK Day of Service

Students pose for a group photo holding trash pickers by a bucket in an outdoor setting.

ASU students smile for a picture while they collect trash for Keep Tempe Beautiful's beautification project. Photo courtesy Educational Outreach and Student Services

February 02, 2024

On Jan. 20, more than 200 preregistered Arizona State University students celebrated Martin Luther King Jr.’s memory in a day dedicated to community service. Gathered from a variety of backgrounds and organizations, the students spent the afternoon engaging with philanthropies across the Valley and giving back to their communities.

This annual event, organized by ASU Changemaker Central, aligns with its commitment to providing students with service opportunities and empowering them to make a difference. Following Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 15, the gathering of students sought to honor his memory and simultaneously work toward a variety of community-based initiatives. 

Shreya Omar, a second-year student studying architecture at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and Changemaker Central service chair for the Tempe campus, commented on the mission behind this event. 

“Today is important because people actually have fun, but they also learn that one of the major ways to live life is to serve,” Omar said. “We do some fun icebreakers, we have a good time, but along with that, we know what’s important and what is good for the community.” 

At 9 a.m. on the day of service, students filed into the Senita Ballroom at the Student Pavillion to enjoy a catered breakfast and hear from the featured guest speaker, Sascha Reverón. 

Sascha Reverón, the current Miss Juneteenth Arizona 2023, speaking to volunteers.
Sascha Reverón, a sophomore student at BASIS Mesa High School and the current Miss Juneteenth Arizona 2023, was the featured speaker on the day of service. Photo courtesy Educational Outreach and Student Services

Reverón is a sophomore student at BASIS Mesa High School and the current Miss Juneteenth Arizona 2023, whose platform was based on getting more representation in political spaces. To achieve this goal, Reverón partnered with the South Chandler Self Help Foundation and created TEENgage, an event for all teenagers interested in learning more about the political process.

During her welcome speech, Reverón quoted some of her favorite passages from King and connected them back to service opportunities like the MLK Day of Service. 

“He said that ‘not everyone can be famous, but everybody can be great because greatness is determined by service,’” Reverón said. “When reflecting on these words, they expose a profound truth: Greatness is not measured by the spotlight we stand in but by the depth of our commitment to serving others.” 

After showering Reverón in applause, the ASU students broke off into two groups and were bussed out to their respective volunteer sites across Phoenix and Tempe.

The first group, in partnership with Keep Tempe Beautiful, hosted the largest number of student volunteers. Volunteers focused their efforts on the Indian Bend Wash, picking up trash and beautifying the area. 

ASU volunteers help pick up trash for Keep Tempe Beautiful
ASU student volunteers collect trash for the Keep Tempe Beautiful initiative as part of the MLK Day of Service. Photo courtesy Educational Outreach and Student Services

The second group went to Phoenix Toolbox, and, in collaboration with Valley of the Sun United Way, packed breakfast and snack pouches for families throughout the Phoenix area. 

Ryan Narramore, the vice president of brand and marketing at Valley of the Sun United Way, commented on why service events in partnership with ASU Changemaker Central are important to their community mission. 

“As our community still continues to reel from and adapt to a post-pandemic world, service days like the MLK Day of Service have never been more important to support organizations with limited resources,” Narramore said. “In addition to the fun and team-building benefits these activities bring, volunteers provide much-needed support for nonprofits that work each day to fulfill their missions for the betterment of others.” 

After their day of service, students traveled back to the Tempe campus Student Pavillion for a provided lunch. 

Sophia Smith, a senior triple-majoring in political science, business law and justice studies, explained her personal tie to philanthropic service. She and her peers from the Undergraduate Law Association (ULA) volunteered as a team. 

“The reason that I chose to participate in today's event, of course, besides the fact that I get to go with my group from ULA, is because community service is really important to me,” Smith said. “Growing up in California, I saw firsthand a lot of people who really needed some help, and there were a lot of ways to serve the community. That's also why I've come to these for so many years in a row.” 

ASU Changemaker Central hosts a wide array of events for those interested in engaging in further service and philanthropy.

“You can just join us and volunteer with us, in any event," Omar said. "Come support the community through service, entrepreneurship, innovation, sustainability and more.” 

ASU Changemaker Central also helps fund student organizations with their change-making projects, on and off campus. They are currently accepting applications for ASU Changemaker Grants, including the Civic Engagement Grant for $1,500; a sustainability challenge for $1,500; the Woodside Community Action Grant for $1,500; and the Changemaker Challenge for $2,500.

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