More than 50 SMU students kicked off Martin Luther King Jr. Dream Week on January 17 by volunteering at Dallas' Cornerstone Baptist Church to feed some of the city's neediest residents.
In the parking lot of the church, just south of downtown Dallas, students scooped warm chili into bowls, served trays of soup, cleaned up and conversed with homeless residents while they ate. They and other spectators watched as the city's annual Martin Luther King Jr. parade wound its way through the neighborhoods around Fair Park.
It was SMU's fourth year to participate in the MLK Day of Service — and the most successful, says Stephanie Howeth, residential community director and Leadership and Community Involvement coordinator.
"This was by far the most student participation we've had," she says. "I think service was what Dr. King was all about. He said everybody could be great because everybody can serve. Participating in the rest of SMU's Dream Week events will be that much more meaningful for the students who helped."
E'Lyn Taylor, a senior journalism and sports management major from Fort Worth, staffed the restrooms at the church. She said the day was an opportunity to celebrate King and his call for service and racial equality.
"It's a great experience and something I really love to do," she says. "It's good to see people of all colors open to celebrating his legacy and the legacy of African-Americans."
During one of the day's highlights, several students were able to make their way into the city parade. Sophomore Roza Essaw, who lives in SMU's Service House, had finished serving food when friends persuaded her and others to ask to join the procession of marching bands and caravans. Essaw says she was reluctant at first, but permission was granted. The students made the most of it by dancing behind a bus that played music and waving a flag that commemorated Dr. King.
"I believe you should work hard and play hard," Essaw said jokingly. "It was a lot of fun, but I was very tired afterward. It was my first time in a parade."
Dream Week, which celebrates the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., is sponsored by SMU’s Office of Student Activities & Multicultural Student Affairs (SAMSA), with support from the Office of Student Development and Programs, the Office of Leadership and Community Involvement, and the Women’s Center for Gender and Pride Initiatives.