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MLK Day 2019: Honoring Dr. King by Celebrating ‘A Day On’

“We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character–that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate. The broad education will, therefore, transmit to one not only the accumulated knowledge of the race but also the accumulated experience of social living.”Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in an excerpt from “The Purpose of Education,” a piece he wrote in the February 1947 edition of the Morehouse College student newspaper, the Maroon Tiger.

I truly believe these words are as important today as they were more than seventy years ago. King’s words speak to the importance of knowledge in partnership with action. It is this sentiment that truly dovetails with the vision and trajectory set by our namesake Tom Shepherd and as executed by my predecessor Dr. Harlan Beckley. The spirit of this challenge sits at the heart of the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty mission to “prepare students for a lifetime of professional and civic efforts to diminish poverty and enhance human capability.” That preparation is one that embraces the necessity of both educational preparation and community engagement, each enriching and sharpening the other.

It has been a year since I made the move to SHECP, and I was reflecting on what that year has meant to me. I truly mean it when I say emphatically that every day I am inspired by the hard work and dedication of the faculty, staff, and students that are part of the SHECP community. I continually see the internships that the students from the consortium are participating in and think to myself, “wow that is an amazing experience in an amazing agency.” Thinking about that and with self-reflection, I’m excited to see the advances that SHECP has made in the past year.

Certainly, there are metrics to behold, such as highlighting the measured growth this year with the addition of the University of St. Thomas–Houston, the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and our newest member, Hamilton College, in December. This past summer 130 college students were selected for SHECP internships and were placed with 96 nonprofit organizations, in 21 different geographic locations from as far south and west as Austin, Texas, to as far north as Burlington, Vermont. Over the course of eight weeks, our interns provided more than 36,400 hours of service at no cost to our nonprofit partners—building capacity at agencies that operate on razor-thin budgets. This continues to add to the veritable army of more than 1,130 interns that have been placed since SHECP was founded in 2012. All of this is remarkable data that is testament to the hard work, genuine desire to make a difference, and dedication to those ideals.

But it is beyond just metrics and measurement, it is also the qualitative aspect where we can see the difference and what is really important. Team effort and mission is critical to SHECP’s success. I truly believe it was providence that I started serving SHECP on Martin Luther King Day 2018. For the 20 years I served in uniform as a naval officer, we described MLK Day as “a day on not a day off.” When I made the leap to the nonprofit space, I continued to believe in that same mantra. For the SHECP community, MLK Day is a reminder of what our communities offer us and what we are required to give back. I am proud to be a part of an organization that practices the spirit of this honored leader in our nation’s history through its continued work in the field of poverty studies. I hold much gratitude to our affiliated faculty, experiential learning professionals, community agency partners, and interns for their genuine and enduring commitment to making a difference. It is nothing short of inspirational, and for me today is a day on.


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