Vail students take on, not off, MLK Day |

Vail students take on, not off, MLK Day

Lauren Glendenning
Vail CO Colorado
NWS VMS volunteers 1 KA 01-19-09

VAIL, Colorado ” Coretta Scott King, the late widow of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., wanted people to do something meaningful on the holiday that honors her husband. She wanted people to “take the day on,” rather than have a day off, and the Vail Mountain School takes her message quite literally, said Kate Blakslee, the community service coordinator at the school. The high school students had a day off from school yesterday, but nobody actually took the day off.

The school sent its students all over the state to volunteer at nonprofit organizations. While the school encourages volunteerism on the King Day of Service, which Congress started in 1994, it doesn’t require students to volunteer.

“You wouldn’t believe how many kids just do it because they want to,” said Emily Tamberino, communications director at the school.

The high school students at Vail Mountain School all volunteered Monday ” 100 percent of them. The middle and elementary students also helped out by doing things like hosting a blanket drive for the local animal shelter, volunteering at the Shaw Regional Cancer Center in Edwards or baking for local police and fire departments.

“This is truly a day that our school embraces as special,” Blakslee said.

Blakslee starts coordinating with the nonprofits in December. She has to figure out how many students are needed at each organization, what they’ll be doing there, how long the day lasts and how they’ll get there. Some students work at one organization in the morning and head to another in the afternoon. Teachers, parents and school staff all help with the transportation.

“The entire building supports the day,” Blakslee said.

The student volunteers did it all Monday, from painting at a Habitat for Humanity construction site to winter hut maintenance with the 10th Mountain Division to cooking meals for seniors.

At the Youth Foundation in Eagle-Vail, students made care packages for the foundation’s Guardian Scholars ” college students who qualified for full-ride scholarships because of tough childhoods and family problems.

Cole Maritz, a Vail Mountain School senior, has volunteered with his classmates every year since ninth grade. He said he’s interested in the various community service initiatives around the county, so it’s nice to work for them to see what they do.

“It gives me more insight into how these organizations give back,” Maritz said.

Carder Lamb, also a senior, likes that the school arranges the service with so many different options. He’s worked at Habitat for Humanity and cooked lunches for the Vail police and fire departments. This year, he helped the Youth Foundation.

The main purpose of the day is to educate, honor and serve, Blakslee said. Last week, the students held a mock town meeting dedicated to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. They watched a video of clips featuring his civil rights efforts and learned more about the history of the holiday and how volunteerism became such an important part of it.

Congress implemented the King Day of Service to coincide with the holiday in 1994, but Blakslee said Vail Mountain School students have been volunteering on the holiday for even longer.

“This is one of the most honored traditions at Vail Mountain School,” she said.

Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or

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