Viterbo University celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Published: Jan. 17, 2022 at 5:16 PM CST
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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) - Students at Viterbo University returned Monday for the spring 2022 semester, while also honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

MLK Day was first recognized in Jan. 1986, and the federal holiday holds a very personal meaning for Viterbo’s VP for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Marlene De La Cruz-Guzman.

“The reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy is essential for us as people of color to realize that there has been a battle that has been fought along the way for equal rights, and today, we need to continue to strive for equity and justice,” Cruz-Guzman said.

Viterbo uses the day to teach students about Dr. King’s values, and how they should be put into practice.

Director of Orientation & Engagement Colin Burns-Gilbert says Viterbo marked MLK Day in 2021 by having students volunteer for various nonprofits in La Crosse.

That tradition continued this year, with students and employees taking part in projects with Friends of the Blufflands, Karuna Housing, New Horizons, and WAFER Food Pantry.

“If we don’t take action and take steps to help improve our communities, then we’re not doing as good as we could,” Burns-Gilbert explained. “The more that we can be involved in those projects, and serve the common good through the people that are already doing those things, the better prepared we’ll be to advocate down the road.”

The community service is meant to encapsulate one of Dr. King’s most well-known quotes:

“Everybody can be great, because anybody can only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love. And you can be that servant.”

Cruz-Guzman hopes students can carry over those values into their everyday lives.

“Service, activism, social justice, inclusion, those are key parts of their training while they’re here at Viterbo University,” Cruz-Guzman detailed. “We hope that they see this day as an integration of all of those, that they take with them that every single one of them can participate, can be a great leader.”

Viterbo closed out the day with a celebration that honored local activists in the community.

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