The young men put finishing touches on a previously foreclosed property, dividing into groups to build porch railings, paint the home’s interior, and gravel the driveway—a four-hour effort that the Tigers tackled by hand with wheelbarrows and shovels. By mid-afternoon, a clean-up crew arrived—seven H-SC students who polished the home’s floors, kitchen, and bathroom—and the renovated home was ready for its new residents.
Now in its fourth year, Hampden-Sydney’s participation in the national MLK Day of Service is “totally a student-driven event,” says Sandy Cooke, director of civic engagement at the College. Cooke credits senior Henry O’Neal, a government major from Virginia Beach, with the event’s creation and success at the College; the pair first collaborated in 2016 to organize a way for H-SC students to observe “a day on, not a day off” in honor of Dr. King.
Through an internship with Obsidian Solutions Group, Henry learned of an illegal tire dump near the High Bridge Trail, a Virginia State Park located in Prince Edward and Cumberland Counties. In conjunction with the national day of service, he organized efforts to remove and recycle more than 1000 tires that had accumulated within site of the trail. The following year, Henry and almost fifty other H-SC students partnered with Prince Edward County Public Schools to help create an outdoor classroom behind the high school.