Many college students consider the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday as another opportunity to take a break and rest on a day off. However, for those involved in their communities and part of the community service world, MLK is a day ON not off, it is considered a day of service to others and a chance to connect with one another and remember the legacy that Dr.King, as well as many other civil rights and social justice activists, have left for us to continue.
For a group of eight UCF students, this past MLK day weekend consisted of not only sleeping in a room full of strangers but getting out of their comfort zones and learning about the issues of farmworkers and immigration in their local communities. Alicia Perez, a UCF student who is an alternative break program coordinator and volunteer has a strong vision for planning this weekend since the issues at hand are close to her heart
"With everything that is going on politically and socially in our nation, I felt that it was important to inform those around me about the stories that they don't hear in mainstream media when linked with farm worker and immigration issues even if that meant facing the pain left behind from my story," said Perez. "To bring a face, and humanize the issues even if that face was just mine."
Perez spearheaded the planning for this particular trip because of how important the issue of immigration and farmworker injustices is, she wanted other UCF students to learn about these issues and help spread the awareness.
Throughout the weekend the students interacted with local farmworkers heard the testimony of their stories and learned about the local issues of environmental racism and much more. On their first day of the weekend the students spent their Saturday morning working in a local nursery where they spent a few hours" in the shoes" of a farmworker, the students then took a tour of Lake Apopka where they then learned about the toxic history of the lake and it's historical farming practices and farmworker treatment. The last two days consisted of working in the local Campesino's garden to learn about FWAF's national Agroecology movement and the students even got the opportunity to participate in South Apopka's annual MLK day parade where community members come together to celebrate community diversity and unity.
"I know that in order for me to reach the change that I want to impact later on in life with my many goals, I have to start small and I have to start now, regardless of how painful it may be for me," said Perez. "I hope that one day I will be able to speak about my story the way Ms. Linda spoke to us about hers."