Indiana State University Newsroom

Why do Sycamores serve? Martin Luther King, Jr. National Day of Service

January 22, 2015

It is well known that Indiana State University leads the way in community engagement. On Jan. 19, approximately 200 students chose to serve the community rather than sleep in. By talking to the student participants, we were able to glean more insight not into the amount of service achieved, but why student chose to serve. Certainly, there are ways for students to meet their class-required service hours that do not involve rolling out of bed for an 8 a.m. signup?

Indiana State’s service ranking would not be possible without passionate students. Even recent freshman-transfer student, Emily Brana—who currently lives in Bloomington and is a science education major—shares the university’s vision. For the most part, Brana believes in volunteering as a way to lead by example. She is all too aware that her actions will have an influence on her daughter, and wishes to be a positive role model.

“I think it's important because for college students—we’re the next generation coming up, so we're the ones who are going to be leading our country, our world. We will be making the decisions. I think it's important for us to understand what is happening in our community and how we can affect change.”

This was Brana’s first time participating in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service. While waiting to sign-up to work, Brana did not have a clear idea of where she wanted to serve, but saw the opportunity to help at her new church’s soup kitchen.

Brandon Query, a Terre Haute business management senior, dedicated his time to beautifying the Terre Haute Children’s Museum (where he has volunteered several times before) and cited Americorps as his inspiration to participate. He was also optimistic about the strengthening connection between the University and community.

“I think it's good for Indiana State to get students involved with the local community; giving back and helping these businesses who otherwise, you know, might not have the help they need.”

Amanda McGlone, a senior transfer student  accounting major from Robinson, Illinois, was found helping out at the Vigo County Public Library.

“I lived in Terre Haute--I feel like--a long time, so why not start giving back? I think it’s really good for anyone to go out and [volunteer], but I think it's awesome that ISU goes out and tries to encourage its students. I'm glad that I'm here today and it's a day off. I decided to get up and show up at school at 8 a.m. It's rewarding.”

Donnell Smith, a sophomore from Indianapolis studying mechanical engineering technology, spent Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service at Next Step. Next Step is located inside Meeting Grounds Coffee Shop, which is inside an old church on the corner of South Sixth Street and Washington Avenue. He has volunteered in his hometown, so “this is something that I’m pretty used to and enjoy doing. It’s a way to give back.” Not to mention, a distraction from living in the residence halls.

He was unaware of Indiana State’s community engagement initiative until one of his teachers informed him and, consequently, encouraged him to participate. He agrees that community service has the effect of “rounding” students in their educational journey.

“Educationally, it may have helped me to become more focused and engaged in the classroom. There's a connection somewhere between the two.”

For Brana, Query, McGlone and Smith, it was their first time participating in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service. However, each one of them had active backgrounds in community service and were interested in transferring the interest to campus, but couldn’t find any clear time between classes, homework and other responsibilities. McGlone and Smith were encouraged by their teachers, Query was motivated by his organization, and Brana waited for a sign.

Brana has contributed to her community from an early age, working for her Gold Award in Girl Scouts. She dedicated much of her time to facilitate a bible study at her church and has been known to volunteer in races as well to hand out water. Query plans to volunteer at the White Violet Center at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods as a part of his Americorps membership. McGlone has dedicated her time to aid a success program for underprivileged children. “My first major was a teacher,” she said, “so I really like to go out and work with the kids.”

How would an event organizer examine student involvement? Jessica Starr is the program coordinator at the Center for Community Engagement. “Community service helps students take what they've learned in the classroom and apply it into a setting for their nonprofit organizations.”

She believes that students choose to participate due to a variety of reasons. “Some students, their professors might require it as part of their classes,” Starr said, “but then some—they just want to get involved in the community. For some new people, it's an opportunity to meet and actively engage with others.”

“We enjoy the partnership with ISU,” said Dana Simons, executive director of Next Step. In response to Indiana State’s services, Next Step is taking strides in reinforcing the bond by providing sycamores with work-study opportunities and possible internships at Next Step and Meeting Grounds—a coffee shop that employs people who may have a harder time finding a job, such as those who are struggling with addiction or survivors of abuse. Simons also believes that the opportunity to meet strong, recovering individuals will shift and enrich the perspectives of students.

“It’s a great two-way street.”


Photo: - Indiana State University students participate in Martin Luther King’s Day of Service at the Terre Haute Children’s Museum on Jan. 19. (Indiana State University Photography Services)

Photo: - Donnell Smith helped Next Step as they partnered with Indiana State for Martin Luther King’s Day of Service. (Indiana State University Photography Services)

Photo: Amanda McGlone and another student assist the Vigo County Public Library during Indiana State University’s Day of Service. (Indiana State University Photography Services)

Contact: Jessica Starr, program coordinator, Center for Community Engagement, 812-237-2334 or


Wrriter: Kristen Kilker, media relations assistant, 812-237-3773 or