Stockton students make sandwiches in service to Atlantic City on MLK Day.

Despite abrasive winds of up to 25 miles-per-hour and a wind chill of about -4 degrees, nearly 1,000 Stockton University students and members of the community came to Stockton’s campuses to celebrate the university’s 15th annual Martin Luther King Day of Service.

“Dr. King was a person of impact,” Stockton President Harvey Kesselman said at the opening program. “[He], along with many other champions of the civil rights movement, overcame tremendous hardships, endured life or death experiences, and bore the physical scars from the hands of those who opposed his dream … Now, more than 50 years later, the impact of this powerful movement continues to live and breathe among us as we resolve to keep Dr. King’s dream alive and bring it to total fruition. As each and every one of you devotes your time and efforts to today’s day of service, I ask you to consider how you, too, can become a person of impact.”

Stockton Faculty Senate president said the day is wonderful way to honor Dr. King’s legacy.

“It is great to see so many people come to make a difference, to step out of their comfort zone to assist others,” she said.

Stockton Student Senate President Katie Coburn said students learn many important lessons outside the classroom, and community service is one of them. She said she remembers the first one she attended and the impression it left of Stockton as a place that cares and gives back.

Following Kesselman was a presentation of the 2019 Stockton Community Engagement Awards to volunteers within the campus community. The award recipients were undergraduate Yomaris Acosta, graduate Sara Ferrara, the Student Occupational Therapy Association, Stockton Atlantic City COO Brian K. Jackson and alumni Julia Popefka of the Class of 2013 and now an occupational therapist.

Students and community partners hosted workshops, seminars and other activities. In Atlantic City, volunteers cooked and made sandwiches for the Atlantic City Rescue Mission and sorted donated clothes for the Eastern Service Workers. More than 50 South Jersey Industries employees and their families attended the event, helping with various projects at different sites.

“It feels so good to be giving back to the community,” said senior Meghan McGowan, activity leader for Books without Borders. “It’s really nerve-wracking being in charge, but it’s worth it because all of this is going to a good cause; all of these books will be sent over to children in need in Lukaya, Uganda.”

Senior Margaret Erickson shares McGowan’s enthusiasm regarding service.

“The MLK Day of Service is a great way to start the semester every year,” she said. “Stockton is very service-oriented, and this really gets that message out. We’re here together to help each other and the community.”

The annual event is coordinated by the Stockton Office of Service Learning. Campus and community partners that made this year’s event such a success include: African American Heritage Museum of Southern New Jersey; Amnesty International; Atlantic City Rescue Mission; Books Without Borders; Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of Woodbine, NJ; Career Opportunity Development, Inc.; CARING Adult Medical Day Care Center; City of Atlantic City; Circle K; Delta Delta Delta Sorority; Eastern Service Workers Association; Family Service Association; Gilda’s Club of South Jersey; Hammonton Cancer Foundation; Hammonton Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare; Kibble Cupboard; Kramer Hall of Stockton University; NAACP, Atlantic City Chapter; New Jersey Organizing Project; Noyes Museum of Art of Stockton University; Ocean County 4-H; Princess, Inc.; South Jersey Industries; Stockton, Atlantic City Operations; Stockton EMS; Stockton Center for Community Engagement; Stockton Honors Program; Stockton Activist in Residence; Surf Rider Foundation, South Jersey Chapter; Stockton F.E.M.A.L.E.S.; The Leadership Studio; Tuckerton Seaport & Baymen’s Museum; Azeez Woodbine Instructional Site; Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Center

Nanette LoBiondo Galloway

Award winning journalist covering news, events and people of Atlantic County for more than 20 years.