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UM students, staff lead LOU community MLK Day of Service events

University of Mississippi students and staff will spearhead efforts to promote healthy lifestyles in Lafayette County and Oxford during 2016 Martin Luther King Jr. Day observances.

The opening ceremony for the Lafayette-Oxford-University MLK Day of Service begins at 9:30 a.m. Jan. 18 at the Oxford Activity Center. Program participants include Oxford Mayor George “Pat” Patterson and Lafayette County Board of Supervisors President Jeff Busby. Donald Cole, special assistant to the UM chancellor for multicultural affairs, will deliver the keynote address.

Afterward, awards will be presented to four outstanding LOU volunteers in two categories. Community member recipients are Patrick Alexander and Jacqueline Certion, both of Oxford; and Judith Thompson of Abbeville. Faith Meyer of Oxford is the student recipient.

“It is exciting that University of Mississippi students and staff are choosing to make a difference in the lives of others,” said Kacey Schaum, assistant dean of students for leadership and involvement. “Volunteering builds communities and strengthens relationships. To have our students take opportunities to participate in endeavors like these is amazing.”

“Learning the larger history surrounding civil rights and MLK is important, but we see a need to educate our students about living leaders who made great movements right here in Mississippi,” said Sara Baker, co-coordinator of the letter-writing campaign. “We hope to give proper gratitude to local leaders. We hope to educate students on the civil rights movement here in Mississippi and give them a local, current perspective about the continuous issue.”

Community participation is crucial to the success of the service observance, said Sarah Ball, Volunteer Oxford director.

“This national day of service honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy and commitment to transforming our nation through service to others,” Ball said. “The LOU MLK Day of Service offers community members a chance to engage in a variety of volunteer opportunities that are designed to give back to the community.”

An assistant professor of English and African-American studies at UM, Alexander created a Prison-to-College Pipeline Program for inmates at Parchman Penitentiary. He is also volunteers with the Rethinking Mass Incarceration in the South Conference.

Thompson is a UM assistant professor of teacher education. A lifelong volunteer, she has been involved with the Boys & Girls Club, CREATE Foundation, Leap Frog, Lafayette County School Board and other groups. She is chair of the LOU Excel by 5 Steering Committee, a community-based project that strives to improve the quality of life for children ages 5 and younger.

A senior academic adviser for the UM Fast Track Program, Certion started a free summer program for tutoring students in math and reading. She is also involved in the Boys & Girls Club, Sigma Gamma Rho sorority and other organizations.

An Ole Miss sophomore from Austin, Texas, Meyer is involved in Kappa Delta sorority. She chaired its Personal presence, Attitude, Communications skills and Enlarging our world committee and worked with Prevent Child Abuse America and the Girl Scouts.

For more information about LOU MLK Day of Service events, contact Ball at volunteer@oxfordms.net or Shaum at krshaum@olemiss.edu.