“What are you doing for others?”
That’s the question Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. asked the crowd during his famous “Conquering Self-Centeredness” speech on August 11th, 1957 in Montgomery, Alabama.
UNC Greensboro’s motto is “service,” and as an institution, Spartans are committed to serving others every day on campus, in the community, and beyond.
And each year, students come together to honor King’s message, life, and legacy through service. This marked the 13th year that Spartans have taken time to serve and reflect on King’s work by participating in the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. The event, organized by UNCG’s Office of Leadership and Civic Engagement (OLCE), is one of two annual, campus-wide days of service.
“The annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service honors the legacy of Dr. King and gives students the opportunity to learn how to become engaged in their communities,” said Katelyn Bodwell, OLCE’s assistant director for civic engagement. “Our hope is that this day serves as a spark to encourage students to explore becoming changemakers through leadership, activism, or community engagement in their own way.”
Over 150 students volunteered safely in small, socially-distanced, masked groups at eleven community partner sites on and near campus, sorting donations at Spartan Open Pantry, providing outdoor maintenance at the Cone Health Healing Gardens, preparing literacy kits for children in the Reading Connections family literacy program, and more. Approximately 320 service hours were completed in a single day.
But for Day of Service site leader and graduate student Cedric Dunham, it wasn’t about the hours of service completed – it was about the impact of that service which would be felt for days, weeks, and years to come.
“Honoring MLK’s legacy and participating in the Day of Service is about planting the seeds so others can reap the benefits tomorrow.”
Fellow site leader and senior finance major Reonna Hairston-Mitchell echoes these sentiments.
“I believe that every small deed can make a huge difference, and directly impacting a person or community is more than worth it – it’s necessary. Service is a value that I hold dearly, and to honor Dr. King’s legacy through service is a reminder to continue serving my community just as he did on my own volition and through my affiliated organization, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.”
Two Spartans have been recognized for going above and beyond to plant those seeds of everlasting impact through service and social justice contributions, and they have been named the recipients of the Martin Luther King Jr. Service Award by the Office of Intercultural Engagement: Edmond Gayton and Aja Boyd.
The MLK Service Award was established in 1986 to honor the memory of the late civil rights leader. This year, due to the large number of outstanding submissions, the 36th annual award was given to both an undergraduate and graduate student whose community activities and involvement embody the spirit of Dr. King’s service to humanity. Both Boyd and Gayton will receive a $500 award.
As a member of the women’s basketball team, Boyd established the Black Student-Athlete Association last year, after the murder of George Floyd. Her efforts served as a beacon of hope and trust for other Black student-athletes in the department. She created a safe space for student-athletes to gather, discuss, grow, and share. Her efforts helped to bring together campus leaders, staff, and students to create an everlasting impact on the athletic department. In addition, Boyd planned and led the 365 March for UNITY, which took place last year, bringing together several athletic teams, staff, and campus police in a peaceful and impactful march for unity.
Gayton has served as a voice for and active participant of the Spartan community through various leadership roles on campus, advocating for social justice. He joined the Resident Hall Association and Student Government Association (SGA) as a first-year student and later chaired the SGA Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity committee. Through this role, Gayton brought voice to concerns within marginalized groups to initiate necessary change. He also served as a student representative for the UNCG iBelong campus climate committee and as a representative on the Chancellor’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) advisory committee. Through these roles, Gayton has advocated for the equity of all students at UNCG. He also holds leadership positions within the UNC System as the Vice President of Social Justice and Accessibility at the UNC Association of Student Governments (ASG), president of the UNCG chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., Vice President of the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), Housing and Residence Life Resident Advisor, and a state role with Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.
Gayton reflects on what receiving this award means to him:
“To receive an award from my University that recognizes the work I do on campus is one thing, but to receive an award that was created to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. means that much more. From my first day at UNCG, I knew that I wanted to give back to the community and to the students on campus. I am extremely proud that I have been able to bring a positive change through my work in Student Government and through Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity inc. here on campus, and through the state as a whole through the Association of Student Governments. This award is a testament that my work has come so far, and a promise that it is far from over. I think of one of my favorite Martin Luther King Jr. quotes, ‘For when people get caught up with that which is right and they are willing to sacrifice for it, there is no stopping point short of victory.’ The work is not done yet and we aren’t quite where we need to be, but I know one day we will be.”
Join us in celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy.
UNCG, N.C. A&T, Guilford College, and Guilford Technical Community College (GTCC) are teaming up to present a virtual celebration of Dr. King’s legacy on Jan. 26 at 6 p.m. The event will feature a panel of student activists and performances by students and staff from each campus. The virtual celebration is free, open to the public, and accessible via racialequity.uncg.edu.
Story by Alexandra McQueen, University Communications
Photography by Martin W. Kane and Jiyoung Park, University Communications
Videography by Grant Evan Gilliard, University Communications