The lessons of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are especially poignant for the students of the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District this year — namely what he said was the most urgent question in life: “What are you doing for others?”
Amid a year that included a pandemic and resulting widespread financial troubles, middle and high school students are continuing their annual tradition of collecting goods for less fortunate individuals. This year, all donations collected will directly benefit the community via the Bellmore-Merrick Community Cupboard.
The collection will run until Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 15. Collected goods will then be packed and distributed by small groups of students.
Thousands of students take part in the massive drive every year, and each individual grade in each building is tasked with bringing in a specific set of items. At Wellington C. Mepham High School, each grade is collecting separate Covid-related items: freshmen, masks; sophomores, hand sanitizers and tissues; juniors, hot cocoa and tea; and seniors, soup and crackers, said Mepham social studies teacher Robyn Einbinder.
“It takes on its own personality across the district,” said Einbinder, who also helped plan the district-wide initiative as the Central District’s social studies chairwoman.
“We have such crazy things going on in the world, and we need to bring light to [the] positive things,” Mepham senior Taya Carlin said. “MLK changed so many lives for the better, and it’s important in hectic times we remember all the good times.”
“MLK Day is building community spirit by having people remember all of the good deeds MLK Jr. did, and become inspired by his call to service,” senior Gianna DiPrima said. “It’s great to see all the grades working together to help those in need.”
John F. Kennedy High School students are taking a pajama-themed approach to the drive this year by both wearing and collecting pajamas for a wide range of ages. Student ambassadors brainstormed the idea.
“MLK is one of my greatest inspirations,” Kennedy ambassador Madison Yeh said. “He dedicated his entire life to fighting racism, until his assassination brought it to an end. In life, he was able to bring about positive change throughout our nation; however, his job is not done. It’s ever more prudent for us as a school and community to more than just simply recognize MLK Day to send the glaring message that there is no room for hatred — that our community is overwhelmingly comprised of people of virtue who reject bigoted beliefs and will not tolerate hate speech.”
Martin Luther King Jr. “was an incredibly amiable person determined to help his community in any way possible,” said Kennedy ambassador Lauren Rosenkrantz. “By giving back within Bellmore-Merrick, we are honoring his legacy.”
“Just looking back at these past several months, an event like MLK Day is needed now more than ever,” added Sanford H. Calhoun High School senior Izabella Mra, an ambassador for her building. “With the pandemic, the election and protests driving everyone apart in the community, the MLK Day of Service serves as a great community bonding experience and reminds us of how far the community has come, what is here for us and especially who is here for us.”