For the tenth consecutive year, Trevecca students joined students across Nashville in honoring Martin Luther King Jr. through service and unity by participating in the Martin Luther King Virtual Day of Service.
This event—which brings together students from Belmont, Fisk, Lipscomb, Meharry, Nashville State, Tennessee State University, Vanderbilt, and more—has been a longstanding opportunity for the local college community to serve in various capacities throughout the city. This year, however, it looked a little different than usual.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the event was virtual rather than in a group setting. Organized via Zoom, various college and university leaders (including Trevecca president, Dr. Dan Boone) collaborated on a welcome session, which was headlined by a keynote from Dr. James Hildreth, president of Meharry Medical College.
After the welcome session, students had the ability to choose virtual Zoom projects with multiple nonprofit and government organizations around Nashville, including the Greater Nashville Regional Council, Turnip Green Creative Reuse, Project Transformation, and Churchwell Magnet Students. Additionally, Trevecca students were given the opportunity to work with the Trevecca Urban Farm and Treecycle youth to plant trees on Trevecca’s campus.
Jamie Casler, director of Trevecca’s J.V. Morsch Center of Social Justice, helped coordinate the event alongside Trevecca AmeriCorps VISTA members. For Casler, the event was emblematic of Trevecca’s foundational values of leadership and service.
“I think the virtual nature of the event changed the perception—that, even in the midst of a pandemic, we are called to serve our neighbors,” said Casler. “During debriefing sessions from MLK Day of Service experiences, students often talk more about how they were changed through the experience of serving others which nurtures a servant heart, which is living into Trevecca’s mission to equip students for Christian leadership and service.”
Despite the change in usual structure, more than 200 students were able to participate and many felt that the day of service was especially impactful because of the circumstances.
Alyssa Gardner, a social justice major at Trevecca, was one of the many participants of the day, opting for the project run by Turnip Green Creative Reuse.
“One thing I found important about this was allowing students to see how they can still be serving in a virtual capacity with this pandemic,” Gardner said. “Just because COVID is blocking us from our normal volunteer and ministry work doesn't mean the issues we helped work against have taken a break.”
For Gardner, the day of service is a reminder that there is always work to be done.
“Turnip Green has various virtual things that students can do,” Gardner said, “which in turn helps fight against various racial, educational and socio-economic issues.”
This sentiment was echoed by Casler, who noted that the J.V. Morsch Center for Social Justice works to frequently provide service opportunities to Trevecca students.
“The gospel calls the body of Christ to love our neighbor as yourself, even in the midst of a pandemic,” he said. “We just have to reimagine what service looks like during a pandemic, [and] this is part of the work of the center: to provide opportunities for Trevecca students to serve our neighbors well, even in the midst of a pandemic.”