Pictured from L-R: Asher Holen, Tute’Sum Baller, Alaura Beeson, Keara Burns, Dustin Olson, Henry Nelson, Charlie Ancich. Photo courtesy of Aberdeen High School.
Each year since 2009 (except for a two-year break during the pandemic), the SkillsUSA chapter at Aberdeen (Wash.) High School has celebrated the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. on “MLK Day” in a different manner than most. They don’t take the day off; they take action in their community. The Aberdeen chapter calls the long-standing tradition the “MLK Day On for Action,” and they believe that Dr. King’s vision of activism extends to making this world a better place for all by doing what you can where you are.
In September, during the planning stages of this year’s “Day On For Action” project, the students decided they’d clean up the grounds of local Morrison Riverfront Park, and they contacted Stacie Barnum — director at the Aberdeen Parks and Recreation Department — to help make it happen. Barnum happily assisted the students in planning, logistics and materials to assist them in their work.
As a chilly MLK Day dawned in January, seven Aberdeen SkillsUSA members got out of bed early on their “day off” and headed to the park. Equipped with buckets and trash-grabber hand tools, they honored the man who’d inspired the holiday with selfless hard work that offered no pay, but great reward: the knowledge that they’d made their community a better place.
“I’m so proud that the students continue to volunteer for this project year after year,” says SkillsUSA advisor and Industrial Engineering Instructor Charles Veloni. “They made another MLK holiday a ‘Day On for Action’ in his honor.”
“I thought this project was a good idea,” says junior and SkillsUSA vice president Keara Burns. “I was very surprised by how much garbage there was on the grass at the park.”
“I think this was great for our community,” adds SkillsUSA president and senior Tute’Sum Baller. “I’ve heard a lot of complaints about the parks being too dirty, so it’s good to know we were making a difference.”
“This was my first year helping with this project,” says proud sophomore Henry Nelson. “I can’t wait to be back next year.”
By the end of the project, the students had collected two 50-gallon garbage bags full of trash, along with two discarded tires and a wayward pole. “The Aberdeen Parks and Recreation Department really appreciates these students volunteering their time to beautify our public areas,” says Barnum. “They are more than welcome to come back year after year. The area they cleaned looks impeccable.”
SkillsUSA treasurer and junior Charlie Ancich noted, “You don’t realize how many small objects were left on the ground for wildlife to potentially ingest. It feels good to clean it up.”
“I feel very strongly about giving back to the community,” added senior Asher Holen. “Martin Luther King was a great man who did some great things for this world, and if we could just give back a little in his name, we’re all better people because of it.”
“I’m so proud of these students,” reflects Veloni. “This project brought us a lot of feel-good energy.”