During her day off from Union High School, Alayziah Byrd enjoyed spending time with residents at the Mary Gran Nursing Home. With a marker, she traced their hands on colorful sheets of paper.
“We’re all different colors, but no matter what color you are, we’ll always be united,” the freshman student said while explaining the purpose of the are project.
A banner of the hand shapes were later attached to the ceiling with help from students of Sampson County’s Upward Bound program, an initiative designed to help students with their college goals. The visit to the facility was made in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday and the MLK Day of Service. Byrd expressed how King used his platform to spread messages of unity for all people, regardless of their race or background.
“We’ll always remembers and he’ll always be a remarkable person in history,” Byrd said.
Sir Patrick, a freshman from Lakewood High School, assisted with the art project. He enjoyed the moment with residents and showing unity with other students.
“It’s just doing something that goes great with Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday,” Patrick said.
Patrick and Byrd are just some of the students benefiting from Upward Bound which began this year. Sampson County Schools received a five-year $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education in September. The mission of the program is to help high school students with their higher education goals.
The student volunteers also made peace doves, an “I Have a Dream” poster and other projects related to King’s messages. In observance of King’s birthday, classes were not held throughout the state. Marlow Artis, director of Sampson County Upward Bound, was impressed that students didn’t stay at home.
“The students were excited to come here,” Artis said. “It really shows the caliber of students that we have. They’re giving up their holiday to come and serve. We’re really excited about working with this group and we consider a great privilege to work with these students.”
The visit to the Clinton facility was the kick off for the Upward Bound program. Artis said it’s one of many service projects during the year.
“Each month we’ll be out in our community seeing how we can leave Sampson County better than how we found it,” Artis said.
Parent Jennifer Edwards enjoyed watching her daughter Adia Edwards and other students interact with the residents. She added that it’s a great way for students to gain volunteer experience while they’re still in high school.
“I think it’s a great thing for kids to be able to give back and it allows them to be responsible for helping people,” Edwards said.
Dain Simpson, administrator for Mary Gran Nursing Home, said it was a fantastic project. It’s something he would like to see more of at the center. He emphasized how everyone is welcomed to volunteer at the center.
“To get the kids involved with the residents is a wonderful thing,” he said. “They’re learning at a young age how its important to give back to the community and to be involved, especially with the elder population. They love to see young people come in. We see a lot of it during the holidays, but it’s good to see it at other times of the year.”
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.