News for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

For SMU Students, MLK Day Of Service Means Hard Work Instead Of Time Off

Honoring the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. with a day of service is a tradition North Texans are embracing. From painting murals to building wheelchair ramps, hundreds of volunteers spent the day giving back to their community.

Spending the afternoon at a south eastern Dallas non-profit that specializes in horse therapy sounds pretty great. Intelligent, friendly animals, sunshine and plenty of fresh air.

Also, lumber that needs to be hauled, stalls ready for mucking and feed buckets that won’t wash themselves. For the SMU students volunteering at Equest’sTexas Horse Park, MLK Day isn’t about taking a break, it’s about getting to work.

“When everyone else is taking the day off, we’re taking the day on," says site leader and SMU senior Nohemi Mora.

She says 170 of her fellow students devoted their school holiday to community service, part of what’s been dubbed “Dream Week.”

“So we have several events going on, we start off with service and we have a unity walk on Wednesday and it’s just a lot of events to bring awareness to the work of Dr. Martin Luther King and try to live through what he taught," she says.

Embracing Hard Work On A Holiday

Credit Courtney Collins / KERA News
Cricket the horse investigates this student's work gloves.

These students aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves. They aren’t riding horses and polishing saddles. They’re raking out stables and hauling wheelbarrows full of manure. They’re scrubbing, bleaching, stacking even dusting.

Equest is a therapy provider for kids and adults with physical, mental and emotional disabilities.

“Clients come out and either ride horses or drive carriages or we use our horses for occupational or physical therapy and we also have a vaulting program and drill team," says Volunteer Coordinator Tom Kirkeby.

He says the Horse Park wouldn’t exist without public servants, and he’s glad these SMU students are so willing to jump in and help.

“We have are new session starting this Friday and we’ve got lots of work to do before our riders get here," he says. "We want the barn to look the best it can for our new riders coming in so they’re going to help us get the stalls clean, get the barn clean and get everything in perfect shiny shape.”

A straightforward and refreshing goal, says Mora.

“College students are so bogged up about what they can do with their minds. All day we’re reading textbooks, working out math problems, things like that," she says. "And there’s such a lot power that we can do with their hands, and we kind of forget that.”

Branching Out

Another benefit of spending the day at a horse park? Leaving campus and University Park behind to connect with a different part of the community.

“I’m from Pleasant Grove which is basically where this is situated at," says Mora. "And I hadn’t had the opportunity to come out here and this is basically my back yard and it’s open to me so now I know what’s here and what my community offers more.”

For these students, it’s an opportunity to bond and expand their horizons, while clearing a path for those in need. A path Martin Luther King walked himself.

Courtney Collins has been working as a broadcast journalist since graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004. Before coming to KERA in 2011, Courtney worked as a reporter for NPR member station WAMU in Washington D.C. While there she covered daily news and reported for the station’s weekly news magazine, Metro Connection.