MLK assembly challenges students to donate their time

At the Friday, Jan. 12, Martin Luther King Junior assembly at MHS, students listened to messages about service and were encouraged to take action.

Even before Martin Luther King Jr. Day was declared a national holiday, Moorestown High School was honoring the civil rights activist’s legacy. For more than 30 years, Moorestown High School has held an assembly commemorating King. The theme of the Friday, Jan. 12, assembly was service.

“Our school strives for Martin Luther King’s dream to be seen in our hallways day in and day out,” said the assembly’s student moderator, Annie Culbertson.

Following a brief video tribute to MLK, junior class president Tommy Londres took the opportunity to share his recent service trip to Malawi, Africa. Last school year, Londres helped facilitate a partnership between MHS and Mercy High School that raised $2,000 through the spirit week, homecoming and talent show fundraisers.

This year, MHS’ spirit week fundraising efforts raised enough money to purchase 50 scientific calculators for students, which the Londres family delivered to Mercy High School at the beginning of November. Londres explained to those in attendance the impact their fundraising made on those students’ lives.

He said without a scientific calculator, the senior students cannot sit for their national exam at the end of the school year. He said this exam — which is like the United States’ SAT — is the “gateway to their academic future.”

“So by putting a calculator into the hands of one of these students, we’re opening up a whole new door for them,” Londres said.

Londres then showed those in attendance video footage from his family’s trip to Malawi. The school’s executive director, Peter Gamula, thanked the MHS community for reaching out and developing a relationship with their school.

“Thank you so much for what you have done,” Gamula said. “We really appreciate it.”

Londres said MLK asked, “What are you doing for others?” and through their partnership with Mercy, MHS has the ability to make a visible change on others’ lives.

“I want you guys to leave this assembly with one thought,” Londres said. “We’re all the same.”

Senior class officer Dilan Prasad expanded on the assembly’s service theme by recapping volunteer efforts that had taken place at MHS on Thursday, Jan. 11. He said members of student government and student volunteers made more than 600 sandwiches to donate to Cathedral Kitchen in Camden, which provides meals for impoverished residents of the city.

Prasad urged students to look at the sandwich making as a jumping off point. He said students should continue to give back and volunteer their time after MLK Day.

“Holidays such as MLK Day should not be the only days we dedicate to service,” Prasad said.

Guest speaker Sebastian Rohan, a former MHS grad who works as a real estate agent at Weichert, Realtors in Moorestown, commended students on donating their time to assemble and make sandwiches. He said volunteering time in that way exemplifies the ideals embodied by MLK.

While he was at MHS, Rohan volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters, and he later went on to serve as a patient care technician for Virtua Health in Mt. Holly. He said working with patients beyond what was expected of him brought him joy. He said he gave more of his time, and in return, he received letters and emails from past patients thanking him.

“Giving back isn’t just about donations,” Rohan said. “It’s about giving your time.”

Rohan said MLK Day is not just about celebrating King but working to keep his legacy alive. He encouraged students to start today by volunteering to tutor a fellow classmate who may be struggling, shovel an elderly person’s driveway or reading a book at a local elementary school.

He said students can reach out to their teachers, members of the local Rotary Club or their places of worship if they aren’t sure how to get started.

“By helping others, you as a student can change hundreds of lives, and they can help hundreds more,” Rohan said.