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On Martin Luther King Day, Aurora students devote themselves to good causes

Pho1: From left: Alexis Figuero17 SerensFrankl16 NafisAdekol17 SuliyAdekol15 Taylor White 17 TaysiWhite 16 who attend East AurorHigh School Oswego High

Photo 1: From left: Alexis Figueroa, 17, Serensa Franklin, 16, Nafisat Adekola, 17, Suliyat Adekola, 15, Taylor White, 17, and Taysia White, 16, who attend East Aurora High School and Oswego High School, volunteered at SciTech Hands-On Museum as part of A

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Updated: February 22, 2014 6:26AM

AURORA — Dozens of high school students answered the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s call for service by volunteering on their day off as part of Aurora’s Day of Service.

The annual event, coordinated by Aurora’s MLK Planning Committee, brought students from West Aurora, East Aurora, Oswego 308 and Indian Prairie 204 to volunteer at seven sites across the city.

Locations included the Marie Wilkinson Food Pantry, the Aurora Public Library, four local facilities that provide seniors with nursing care and rehabilitation services and SciTech Hands-On Museum, which was a new addition to this year’s volunteer sites.

Students who volunteered were recognized with service awards at Aurora’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration at West Aurora High School on Monday night.

Just before noon at the recently expanded Marie Wilkinson Food Pantry, 18 students had signed in to volunteer by cleaning and stacking shelves with food and moving and breaking down boxes. U.S. Rep. Bill Foster (D-Naperville), who represents parts of Aurora, also stopped by to help stock food.

Toussaint Smith, who chairs the city’s African American Heritage Advisory Board and is part of the MLK Planning Committee, manned the door and signed in students.

Smith said high school students are “hungry” for an opportunity to volunteer. The MLK Planning Committee tries to find new locations to add each year that can accommodate large numbers of volunteers who want to participate, he said.

“Last year a lot of the kids were jumping from place to place,” he said. “They were excited to do it… This is great for the kids.”

Jessa Ramirez, 18, a student at Indian Prairie’s Metea Valley High School in Aurora, heard about the service day through the school’s website and through a service club.

“I just wanted to be a part of the Day of Service,” Ramirez said after an hour of clearing shelves and restocking food.

Breanna Jackson, 16, a student at Oswego East High School, volunteered through the NAACP and the Quad County Urban League’s program called Tomorrow’s Scientists, Technicians and Managers.

“Today is a day of service and I wanted to go to an organization I hadn’t been to before,” Jackson said.

Cristine Roman, 16, a West Aurora High School student, helped wheel boxes into the food pantry from an outdoor shed and stocked shelves with food. Roman said she’s a regular volunteer at the food pantry, but she also wanted to pitch in on the Day of Service.

“I love being in the front when people sign in before they walk through,” she said.

Roman, who speaks Spanish, often helps translate for clients who don’t speak English.

Hands on at Sci-Tech

Over at SciTech Hands-On Museum about 20 students had signed in to volunteer by noon, including students from West High, East High, Oswego High and Waubonsie Valley High.

Students walked younger children through the museum, demonstrating exhibits to them and worked tables with crafts, such as coloring hands with dreams written on them that would be used to make a collage and making paper peace doves to float inside an air tube.

Markell Gibson, 16, who attends East High, helped students make dream catchers at a craft table.

“I like working with kids and I have no problem taking time out of my day to do good things for the community,” Gibson said.

Serensa Franklin, 16, who also attends East High, came out to volunteer as part of SHADES, a mentoring program led by Katrina Boatright-Smith that works to empower female students.

On her paper hand, Franklin wrote that her dream was “infinite bliss.”

Boatright-Smith said 30 students from her SHADES program were participating in the Day of Service at various sites. The students were texting her all morning, she said, because they were excited to participate.

“Gratitude is one of our principles [in the program],” Boatright-Smith said. “You can always give back.”

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