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ATC, USCA’s 5 Days of Service makes impact of MLK’s legacy count

January 24, 2019

A little play. A little work.

Students from Aiken Technical College and USC Aiken took time for both Tuesday, sharing their time with children in the Salvation Army’s Boys and Girls Club of Aiken.

Students from ATC and USCA coordinated the event, the first of the new 5 Days of Service initiative to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during his birth month. The purpose is for students at both schools “to make an impact at five local nonprofit organizations during a five-day period,” according to a news release from USCA.

Tuesday’s event started with games of basketball, soccer and flying disc – and even a spontaneous dance off – on the lawn beside the Salvation Army’s headquarters on Gayle Avenue.

After they played, the Boys and Girls Club members worked, with USCA and ATC students helping them with homework.

“Our goal today is to interact with the students, get to know them, tutor them, play along with them and show these young kids a strong sense of community and love and support for one another,” said Ashley McCray, a junior nursing major at USCA from Lexington, taking time from a soccer game.

McCray said the day’s theme, “Being the Inspiration,” fit the service project perfectly.

“I love showing kids that there are figures – college kids like us – in the community they can look up to and say, hey, we can be like you if we work hard in school,” she said.

McCray said working with children also shares King’s dream with others.

“Show community with one another. Show love because that’s what Martin Luther King was all about: showing love for one another, for your fellow brother and sister,” she said.

Stephanie Johnson, who is working on prerequisites to start ATC’s nursing program in the fall, said Tuesday’s project was an opportunity to keep giving back to the community. Johnson, who is from Aiken, served in the U.S. Army for 12 and a half years.

“I’m excited and honored to help the young kids today because they are our first priority. They are our future,” she said. “They’re trying to figure out what they want to do in life, and they look to us personally as mentors. They’re always watching. I feel really grateful to be here because I had role models that helped influence me and look at where I’m at today.

“We plow a seed. These kids are our seed. Eventually, they’re going to grow up and be something extraordinary to this world. It’s great to be a part of that.”

The 5 Days of Service will continue through Saturday with ATC and USCA students volunteering at ACTS, with the theme “Accountability Compassion Through Service”; the Center for African American History, Arts and Culture, with the theme “Rooted in Culture”; the Golden Harvest Food Bank, with the theme “Doing the Right Thing”; and the St. Thaddeus Episcopal Church Soup Kitchen, with the theme “Growing in Love.”

The week will end with the 2019 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Celebration on Sunday in USCA’s Convocation Center at 2049 Champion Way, Graniteville.

A service fair featuring community organizations will begin at 2:30 p.m. and the program at 3 p.m.

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