OAKHURST – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is quoted as having said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?'”
That important question was posed and answered recently as community members gathered at Oak Creek Intermediate (OCI) to roll up their sleeves.The load was sometimes heavy but the mood was always light as 23 people, including kids of all ages, put in several hours of hard work on improvements to the middle school.
The group was spurred to action via email and text, as friends and co-workers spread the word that an event would take place in honor of the Martin Luther King (MLK) Day of Service, held each year in honor of the slain civil rights activist.
The MLK Federal Holiday was designated as a national day of service by Congress in 1994, and is part of United We Serve, the President’s national call to service initiative. The initiative asks that Americans work together to provide solutions to our most pressing national problems. Service at schools is one of many ways to satisfy that call to action.
On Saturday, Jan. 19, friends and families arrived at OCI with work gloves, tool belts and donuts, ready to clear out, organize and re-arrange two old portable classroom structures whose condition had waned and contents required reassessment. The goal was to clean and categorize music classroom supplies and make room for a fitness studio where students can exercise, whether it’s weight-lifting or yoga.
OCI Principal Nicole White was on-site to oversee the activities.
“We reorganized two spaces to better utilize the space we had available,” said Principal White. “We created a designated music area for instrument storage and choir classes and we expanded the space we had for physical fitness.”
The portable also gives students room to move when weather is rough. The newly overtaken area is nearly 2,000 sq. ft. and features various dumbbells, medicine balls, a universal machine and nearly wall to wall mats.
White was grateful for the onslaught of good deeds well done. “I watched the momentum, determination and dedication before me and was totally overwhelmed by what was happening. All I could think about was how excited my students would be on Tuesday morning.”
Parent Ronda Clarke got the medicine ball rolling by planning the Day of Service. Clarke is on the Board of Trustees for the Bass Lake Joint Union Elementary School District and was inspired by an email reminding her of the annual MLK volunteer day. When she checked the national website in search of local volunteer activities, the part-time Kaiser nurse saw that the closest opportunities were down in Fresno.
“I thought, ‘Oh, let’s do something up here!’ Clarke recalled, so she wrangled some friends to help. “Being advocates of schools, we talked to Mrs. White and she had this big project and then I went to the National Day of Service website and registered on there.” One visitor to the website drove from Mariposa to help out at OCI.
Principal White emphasizes that this kind of community cooperation is essential for schools since budgets are limited and extra time is at a premium, along with extra hands. “In this economy in public education we have to find resources and maximize the facilities and tools we already have available,” explained the educator. “This project involved such incredible heavy lifting that we would not have been able to complete it for a while. The teachers were very excited to return to school on Tuesday and use the newly designed facility.”
There was a sense of gratification in the air as teens, parents, a local first responder, a minister, executives, activists and a host of other individuals all helped out at the Oakhurst day of service, drawn together by the national call to action and the lure of free snacks. Organizers are already looking forward to next year.