MLK Day events harness community spirit

Unlike MSU, students at Bozeman’s Chief Joseph Middle School will have class on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 21, as the state of Montana does not formally recognize the day as a national holiday.

However, following Bozeman resident Ruth Forrest’s initial push five years ago toward a local MLK celebration, students of Jan Krieger’s 1 Million Ways Club have organized the youth over the past four years to create a celebration on the day before the holiday.

Fondly known as “Profé” by his Spanish students at Chief Joseph, Krieger created the club to help students understand how much impact their actions can have “to make the world a better place.” Active in service and conservation activities on and off campus, including the installation of water bottle filling stations within the middle school, the 1 Million Ways Club considers the celebration an opportunity to help the community as a follow-up to the National Day of Service on Saturday, Jan. 19.

The celebration, which is partnered with The Gallatin Valley Food Bank, will be held at the Emerson Theater from 1:30-3:30 p.m. and will feature performances by the Bozeman High School band, student singers from the high school and middle school, local actor Chris McIntyre, and keynote speakers Dr. James Bruggeman and Montana National Day of Service Coordinator Judith Heilman. Most of the students involved are graduates of Chief Joseph and the 1 Million Ways Club.

The service-based culture of the club at Chief Joseph has spread throughout the school and carried on into Bozeman High School. Current student Emma Bowen explained that, “When [the club] got started, it was the thing to do.”

Maintaining a school-wide value set and focus on service and global community, students pass the club on from year to year. “A lot of students in the club are, for lack of a better word, popular,” said Maggie Mackin, an 8th grade student at Chief Joseph, “so they get out and spread the word.” Dedicating their past month’s efforts to the National Day of Service and the MLK Day celebration, Krieger’s club embodies the ideals for the National Day of Service.

As a national holiday enacted in 1994 to coincide with MLK day, the National Day of Service has been organized this year on Saturday to accommodate for the Jan. 21 presidential inauguration. A representative on the Presidential Inaugural Committee, Heilman is a non-partisan leader of the service events in Montana. “[This day] is not about politics but about bringing community together,” she explained.

“For me, this is Nirvana,” Heilman said about helping with events in her home area. She described the weekend as an opportunity for people to “get out of their little micro realm and look at their community.”

Events scheduled by local and national non-profit organizations are available for anyone to sign up for on the National Day of Service website at www.2013pic.org/service/serve.