Most students would cringe at the thought of coming into school early on a Saturday morning — especially when told to bring their parents with them. Of course, students being punished do not generally come in wearing pajamas and bringing their blankets and pillows.
Students and parents from New Haven’s Vincent Mauro School came to school Jan. 18 for a day of activities celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Yale University funded the festivities and nine Yale students volunteered their time to interact with the children at the school.
The students spread out their blankets on the floor of the school’s gymnasium and had doughnuts, fruit, juice, and hot cocoa for breakfast.
The day’s activities consisted of two parts: viewing the video “Our Friend Martin” and having the students read with their parents and Yale volunteers. “Our Friend Martin” tells the life-story of Martin Luther King Jr. by highlighting both the moments in his early life that shaped his philosophy and the major events of his leadership of the civil rights movement.
After watching the video, the students either read aloud or listened as the volunteers and their parents read to them. Read to Grow donated books for both the students and their parents to take home, said Jene Flores, president of the PTO.
The school marked Wednesday — King’s actual birthday — with a series of events, Diane Glenn, a school clerk said. Students in attendance screened Microsoft PowerPoint presentations in the foyer and listened to a group of speakers, including Verna Collins, a reporter for Channel 8 news, and Angela Robinson-Thomas, a Connecticut Superior Court judge, give other talks.
Robinson-Thomas used the alphabet to teach students about positive characteristics, associating particular values with different letters.
“She called a couple of students up there to sing and then she would explain what it means — like ‘A’ for attitude,” said Valerie Rodriguez, a fifth-grader at the school.
Vijor McCray, a first-grader, said she had learned a lot about dealing with conflicts over the week.
“I would be nice to people even if they are bad to me,” McCray said. “I would forgive them.”
Yoon-Jee Kim ’05, the public school intern at Vincent Mauro, said there will be more opportunities to volunteer at the school later in the year.
The project at Vincent Mauro was one of several events held during the day. Other groups of students labeled and sorted cans at a food bank, painted a room at the YMCA, sorted toys, visited a nursing home for AIDS patients and organized books at a book bank.
One group, whom Hannah Croasmun, the program coordinator at Dwight Hall, described as “amazing,” braved the cold weather to clean up the shoreline at Lighthouse Point.
“We decided we wanted Saturday to be the day of action,” Croasmun said. “We were kind of trying to mix service and more political action kind of stuff.”
The Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service was planned by the MLK Coordinating Council, described by Croasmun as a coalition of members from cultural groups, Dwight Hall, the Social Justice Network, graduate students, the Pan-Ethnic Coalition, and other organizations.
Croasmun said she hoped the day of service would expose Yale students to service and inspire them to stay involved in these types of activities.