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African American Studies
University of Mississippi

UM Students, Staff Lead Community MLK Day of Service Events

Volunteers gathering to conduct food drive and promote wellness


Donald Cole photo by Robert Jordan/ UM Communications

Donald Cole photo by Robert Jordan/ UM Communications

University of Mississippi students and staff will be spearheading 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, assistant provost, special assistant to the UM chancellor for multicultural affairs and associate professor mathematics, 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.”

Other activities scheduled are:

Jan. 4-15 – a letter-of-appreciation writing campaign for civil rights leaders John Perkins and Charles Evers. Also, “I Have a Dream” art project. Participating schools include Oxford-University School and Lafayette High School.
Jan. 16 – Delta Service Corps VISTA is sponsoring a canned goods drive for the UM Food Bank, Pantry and Love Packs. Drop-offs may be made between noon and 4 p.m. at CVS, Larson’s Cash Saver and Walgreen’s.
Jan. 18 – Ole Miss athletics/UPD-sponsored “Dream Team” 5-K wellness walk/fun run. The event begins at 10:30 a.m. at the Oxford Activity Center. The first 50 participants to register get free T-shirts.
Jan. 18 – Volunteer projects at the Veterans Home in Oxford.
Jan. 18 – Sorting of food collected during the food drive.

“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.”

Patrick Elliot Alexander, assistant professor of English and African American Studies.

Patrick Elliot Alexander, assistant professor of English and African American Studies.

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 and 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 FASTrack Program, Certion started a free summer program for tutoring students in math and reading. She is also involved in the Boys and Girls Club, Sigma Gamma Rho sorority and other organizations.

A sophomore from Austin, Texas, Meyer is involved in Kappa Delta sorority at UM. 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 or Schaum at