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Making Students Part of the Solution on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

People all across the country will celebrate MLK Day on January 16 with a day of community service. Getting involved is a great way for students to experience the pride that comes with helping others.

Volunteering is a multigenerational activity at Harding Elementary School in El Cerrito, California. Parents, teachers and students work together to do service activities such as school yard cleanups, garden work parties and food drives.

“We want to instill in our kids the values of contributing to the community, being helpful to others and taking care of their neighborhoods,” said Parent Teacher Association President Jessica Jones.

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’ — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Schools, businesses and nonprofit organizations across the United States will join together for a day of service on January 16, 2017, in recognition of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. By giving their time as volunteers, they’ll help ensure that Dr. King’s legacy lives on while also improving and strengthening their communities.

Find an MLK Day volunteer opportunity or spread the word about your own volunteer event.

Five reasons to volunteer

There are many benefits that come from cultivating a love of service in students.

#1. It’s fun. Finding ways to pitch in helps kids build connections with classmates and family members while also making new friends. By finding volunteer activities that align with your students’ interests, you can make the experience even more enjoyable.

#2. It’s educational. Working with classmates to fill a community need can be exciting and memorable. Volunteering also rounds out students’ academic profiles and enriches their school experience.

#3. It’s active. Whether you are taking part in renovations at your school, painting a community center, maintaining a neighborhood walking trail or sorting canned goods, you are moving, getting exercise and reinforcing the importance of an active lifestyle.

#4. It feels good. Students who volunteer for a project that helps improve their community bring home more than reading and writing skills. They gain a sense of accomplishment and the satisfaction of being helpful to others. “They feel like they are valuable members of their community,” said Jones.

#5.The need is great. There is never a shortage of opportunities to lend a hand. Volunteering can be a one-time event or a regular activity.

Six tips for a meaningful experience

Follow these guidelines to ensure a positive experience for young volunteers.

#1. Set up a project that is age appropriate. The work should match the kids’ skills, abilities and maturity level.

#2. Take time to explain the project, why they are doing the work and how it affects them and their community. Helping to clarify those connections will make a lasting impression.

#3. Get involved. “It’s a great way to lead by example and show kids that you share their commitment to improving the world around them,” said Jones.

#4. Be positive and patient. Encouraging young volunteers to make a difference leads to positive outcomes for the projects and communities they serve.

#5. Talk about Dr. King’s legacy. By putting kids’ contributions in the context of his work, you help them understand that everyone has a role to play in improving their communities and the world around them.

#6. Have fun. There are no limits to the opportunities for volunteering with kids.

Find year-round volunteer opportunities through Points of Light’s HandsOn Network and

Watch Kaiser Permanente employees and their families celebrate MLK Day with A Day ON at Grass Valley Elementary School.

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