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MLK Day Meaning Spurs Remembrance, Volunteerism

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – The Williams family watched intently as a group of sixth graders spoke about justice and injustice, explaining their Martin Luther King Jr. Day collages. Photos of senseless shootings lined the outskirts of their boards while photos of the president and holiday vigils warmed the center.

On Saturday, Jan. 14, volunteers filed into the Eastview Middle School to help a group of 40 elementary school students make collages as part of the White Plains Youth Bureau. The young boys, wearing blue shirts and ties imprinted with the "Saturday Academy" logo sifted through newspapers and magazines, searching for photographs highlighting negativity and positivity.

"It was really fun to watch the young men read and discuss the stories," said Gayle Williams, a 20-year Greenburgh resident, referencing the stories about justice and injustice. "It was exciting to see kids so excited about being there on a Saturday and doing work. That was a shock. They were very into who Martin Luther King was."

For Gayle and her husband Terry, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a holiday that holds meaning. They were children when King was killed in 1968 and saw the opposition against memorializing Jan. 16 throughout the 1980s.

"I love doing something that is some sort of active participation on the Martin Luther King holiday weekend because I lived through the creation of this holiday," said Gayle. "It means more to me than any other holiday. While others are important, I wasn't there for the creation of them."

Gayle and Terry were accompanied to Eastview by their sons, Reece, 18, and Nile, 13. While the Woodlands students were not initially overjoyed to give up their Saturday, they both expressed an appreciation for helping the Youth Bureau students.

"That's the beauty of volunteering," Gayle said. "Sometimes you feel like it's not fitting in your schedule or it's taking up some time or whatever. But once you do it, it makes you feel so good. My boys both felt good. They felt glad to help them. It was a good experience for them."

Martin Luther King Jr. Day was first observed in 1986, making this year the 26th year celebrating King's life and message. In 1994, the United States Congress turned the day into a national day of service.

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