In 1994, Congress designated the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday as a national day of service. This year, Saint Leo University partnered with Habitat for Humanity of East and Central Pasco County to work on a house being built in Dade City, near University Campus. The Habitat "build" was held on January 18, in advance of the MLK Jr. Day holiday.

The Office of Community Engagement honors the university's Benedictine core values by working to raise awareness and assist with various social issues such as animal welfare, environmental concerns, and hunger and homelessness. "Since this semester's project focused on hunger and homelessness, our relationship with Habitat for Humanity was a natural partnership to help build homes in the local community for local community members," said Krystal Sanchez, assistant director of Greek Life and Community Engagement.

Habitat for Humanity of East and Central Pasco County, a nonprofit ecumenical Christian housing ministry, has built or rehabilitated more than 140 homes.

The site Saint Leo students, faculty, and staff worked on was still in the early stages of construction, and volunteers performed tasks such as paneling windows, nailing the roof, and building frames for the home.

King's work to promote civil rights and lift people out of poverty has made a positive impact on our world today, Sanchez noted, so for Saint Leo, "it is important to honor the sacrifices that were made to improve our world and remember the work is not done. It is our responsibility to keep serving our communities to create an equitable world and that responsibility is year-round. In Dr. King's words, 'Life's most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?' "

Saint Leo's community service project was open to faculty and staff, too. "When faculty and staff 'walk the walk' and participate in volunteer opportunities, students are more likely to do the same, which builds a community of service!" Sanchez said. Some of those who mentored and volunteered included Dr. Moneque Walker-Pickett, professor and associate chair of the Department of Criminal Justice, Angel L. Jimenez, instructor of writing and research, and Gary Howard, online admissions, Tampa Student Support Center.

The university also hosted a spoken-word event on January 22, in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Students gave spoken-word presentations (poetry, rap, and other forms of communication) that they created to discuss King and his work. The Glen E. Greenfelder and Janet L. Denlinger Boardrooms in the Student Community Center took on a coffeehouse atmosphere for this student-centered event.

"That event is actually one of my favorites because it gives students a platform to speak directly to their peers on the importance of Dr. King's work and how it continues to impact them," Sanchez said. "The event hosted five performances and each one provided a unique experience, perspective, or vision for the world."

Saint Leo University's Savannah Education Center also proudly participated in that city's 2019 Dr. Martin Luther King Junior Observance Day Parade. The team created a float with a graduation theme to represent "Don't let the dream die; keep it moving and alive."

Savannah center students, faculty, and staff have been a part of the parade for several years. "We participate to celebrate not only the ideals of Dr. King and what he stood for, but we also incorporate those same things in our core values," said Stephanie Stinski, director of the Savannah center.

Those who didn't make it out to the parade caught a glimpse of the Saint Leo Savannah float thanks to WTOC-TV, a CBS-affiliate in Savannah