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FinnU MLK Day of Service altered due to COVID-19

HANCOCK — The annual tradition of Finlandia University students taking the day off from classes and participating in community service on Martin Luther King Jr. Day is being altered due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result of testing and social distancing guidelines, many of the opportunities that students normally have for community service, like visiting nursing homes and reading to school-aged children, are no longer available.

“COVID has created many challenges in regards to upholding the traditions we value so much. This includes our MLK Day of Service,” said Director of Residence Life, Leann Fogle. Fogle usually serves as the MLK Day of Service coordinator.

“It is incredibly important to me and the rest of Finlandia University that we continue the tradition in a safe way. Luckily, our men’s hockey team is able to continue their part, and the Diversity committee is looking at ways to utilize technology to continue giving students opportunities to participate in a future day of service during Black History Month in February.”

The men’s hockey team will chop firewood for Little Brother’s Friends of the Elderly as they have done in years past. The basketball teams are also exploring an opportunity to shovel snow for Little Huskies once Heikki Lunta works his magic and brings more snow to the Copper Country.

The rest of campus can participate in MLK Day by finding one of the printed “I have a dream…” speech bubble posters and filling in what their dream is. The posters will then be shared around campus. Students and employees should also check their emails for potential service opportunities in February.

“While our tradition may look different this year, I am excited and proud to see Finlandia display sisu in adapting and continuing to help our community,” said Fogle.

In addition to those opportunities on MLK Day, FinnU students will be taking part in a racial and social justice webinar, Jen Fry Talks, with renowned educator and activist Jen Fry on January 19 from 5:45 to 7:30 p.m.

“Jen Fry is an energetic, engaging and no-holds-barred presenter,” said President Johnson in an email to students. “I really believe you will enjoy your time spent with Jen and with one another. Our conversation will continue all semester and beyond.”

The event will be the first of many hosted by the President’s Social Justice Task Force and is aimed at opening up a dialogue about race and systemic racism. Finlandia employees participated in the webinar in December and have begun follow-up discussions as a result of the training.

“With everything that’s going on, all schools could use this outreach to help those who aren’t sure what’s going on or how to react to everything that’s happening,” said criminal justice major and member of the Social Justice Task Force Shane Voldarski. Voldarski is currently a junior from Ontonagon, Mich. and joined the Task Force to augment their criminal justice educational experience.

“With Finlandia being such a small private school, it’s really important that students are provided with that extra help to understanding the bigger picture,” said Voldarski. “I think it will help to bring people even closer together. I’ve never done anything like this and never listened to a conversation about this before so I’m really interested to see how it will turnout.”

For questions about Martin Luther King Jr. Day, please reach out to Leann Fogle at leann.fogle@finlandia.edu. For questions about Jen Fry Talks, please reach out to Cindy Cowell at cindy.cowell@finlandia.edu.

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