Day of Service organizer shares King’s vision
Cheryl Levi of Highland Park organized the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 18, 2013 6:05AM
HIGHLAND PARK — As a teacher at Elm Place School in Highland Park, Cheryl Levi wanted to show students that individuals can make a difference, that collectively students could do something about injustices and suffering around the world.
Her students would research genocide in Darfur or the mistreatment of women by the Taliban, then write letters asking members of Congress to impose sanctions.
She’s not let up in the six years since she retired from her 38-year teaching career. Levi is the key organizer of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, which on Monday will draw hundreds of people to the Highland Park Recreation Center to honor King by doing something for others. Sponsored by North Shore District 112 and the city’s Human Relations Commission, the four-year-old Day of Service has grown each year.
“This year, it just seems like more and more people have heard about it and more and more people want to help,” she said.
Participants will be able to package toiletries for local shelters, bag dry soup ingredients for families with limited resources, write letters to soldiers or military children, and make flowerpots for Highland Park Hospital patients. The event will run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Highland Park Recreation Center, 1207 Park Avenue West, Highland Park.
Q. Why is the Day of Service a fitting way to honor the slain civil rights leader?
A. In 1994, Congress designated MLK Day as a national day of service. Dr. King said “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?” as well as saying, “Everybody can be great because everybody can serve.” This day brings us closer to Dr. King’s vision of a “Beloved Community.”
Q. Why do you think the Day of Service has taken off the way it has in just four years?
A. I feel everyone in society is looking to give back. It is a way to empower individuals and make our communities stronger. At this event they can support veterans and military families, help those less fortunate and sick, support environmental causes, and reach out to help with world issues. People just feel the urge to do for others. We can all make a difference.
Q. As a teacher, what inspired you to incorporate service learning into your social studies classes?
A. Service Learning was a way to connect classroom studies with the natural caring and concerns young people have for their world.