Viterbo University addresses giving back on this MLK day

Published: Jan. 18, 2021 at 6:26 PM CST
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One January tradition has a new twist this year.

Each year, Viterbo University celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day on campus in La Crosse, but this year organizers decided to add something extra special.

“Every year, Viterbo University and other La Crosse community partners, we host an evening event—so we decided to add in some new components to the La Crosse celebration and focusing on service,” said Megan Pierce, Director of International & Intercultural Student Success at Viterbo University.

That service includes delivering food to people in need.

Students spent time preparing authentic Cuban cuisine with guest chef Ernesto Rodriguez, who also spoke in a Cuban refugee forum taking place on campus Monday.

Rodriguez was asked to take part in the events today to help show the importance of diversity on campus.

“I came here in 1980 to Fort McCoy, and I’ve been here for 40 years,” said Rodriguez. “We’ve been cooking black bean, rice and banana—that’s the main food we eat in Cuba. It’s been a rough year for a lot of people, and I like to help them.”

Some other on-campus events included a Race Card project to address opinions on racial injustice, a photo history display and panel on Cuban refugees before the evening’s annual MLK Day address featuring Rev. William Barber.

“It’s really part of an intentional effort that we’ve been doing all year long try to increase awareness of issues of social justice,” said Rick Kyte, Director of Reinhart Institute of Ethics & Research at Viterbo University.

“It’s a good experience because I met a lot of different people from parts of Wisconsin—maybe they can see different,” Rodriguez said. “When we came here, there was a lot of talk about Cubans. When we came here and we were criminals—but like I say, some were criminals but some was good person.”

“We’re all human, we have so many things in common,” added Kyte.

“We really want to live out the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and really have that action piece and make sure we love on our neighbors and community,” Pierce said.

Viterbo officials say they were happy with the day’s turnout and plan to make the MLK Day of Service, Learning and Celebration an annual component of their MLK Day festivities.

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