Even a global pandemic couldn’t stop the community from coming together for the greater good.
Last year, on January 20, the halls, classrooms and auditoriums of Germantown Friends School (GFS) were packed with 200 students, parents, and community members taking part in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. However, this year those same hallways were empty.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 25th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service at GFS went virtual for the first time, but it was still aligned with the same mission: to bring together members of the community to help, support, and educate one another.
This year’s day of service was led by Dr. Zarah Adams, director of community engagement at GFS. To her, “The Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service is important because it brings the community together to focus on the needs of others.” Adams believes that it is still important to host the day of service, given the uncertain times—and maybe even more so. Adams designed workshops to ensure “that all members of the community, from the youngest to the oldest, could participate,” and aligned with the needs of local community partners, including Cradles to Crayons, Face to Face, and the Germantown Community Fridge.
The day started with a presentation by keynote speaker Dr. Aletha Akers, Vice President for Research at the Guttmacher Institute, who spoke about the health disparities that have been highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Amy Celentano, who heads the modern language department at GFS, spoke about the keynote, saying, “Her inspirational speech urged all of us, voters or not, doctors or not, to become involved in the pursuit of equity for all.”
The morning offered two different workshop sessions, which allowed families to get involved in a variety of ways. Michelle Palmer, director of the Breakthrough Program at GFS, led a workshop on the impact of racism and how to be an upstander. Dr. Daniel Taylor, GFS Class of 1982 and a pediatrician at St. Christopher’s Hospital, talked about a study of his that uncovered racial bias. Lower School art teacher Lili Sharpless guided families through a fun art project.
A student club that helps provide food to those in need organized multiple workshops. During the first, participants assembled toiletry kits and snack bags for Face to Face, and during the second, volunteers made baked goods for the Germantown Community Fridge. “It was really great to see GFS engage their students in such a meaningful community project,” shared Rachel Newman, a GFS parent.
Tenth grader Karthi Ramiah said he participated in the MLK Day of Service because he feels it is important for GFS to come together as a community to help the greater good. “I feel it is our duty to honor the life and legacy of Dr. King.”
Dr. Adams admits that she had some nerves going into the day, but was happy to see how everything unfolded. Even with the restrictions imposed by COVID-19, Germantown Friends School was able to come together for a day of learning, service, and reflection, honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.