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Silas Walker, Deseret News
An elementary school student from South Salt Lake works on a project during the Westminster College Day of Service at the college in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. More than 200 students participated in the yearly event, which is part of the larger Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at Westminster.

SALT LAKE CITY — Students at Westminster college invited elementary school children to their campus for a day of service Friday with the goal of helping the kids find their way back once their time comes.

"I'll never forget one year, a student got off the bus and just started running ahead of the leader, … 'I know where I'm going, I've been here five times,' and I was like this is amazing … we've brought students here and they have some familiarity, so thinking about college for them in the future won't necessarily be as scary," said Julie Tille, director of the Katherine W. Dumke Center for Civic Engagement at Westminster College

Each year the Dumke Center sends an invite to the campus to elementary students in after-school programs with Promise South Salt Lake, which is partnered with the Dumke Center. The Day of Service is part of the larger Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at Westminster college, which includes lectures, a luncheon and a march.

"We try to set it up like a service-learning opportunity," said Brendan Sudberry, a student employee at the Dumke Center who helped plan the event.

The children rotated between a service project building supply kits for their teachers, experiencing a college classroom by learning about the solubility of M&M's, playing soccer and drawing their dreams on graduation caps.

To connect the Day of Service with Martin Luther King Jr., student volunteers spoke to the kids about his legacy and helped the children draw their own dreams on the top of graduation caps. They took pictures of the children in their caps with a Polaroid camera.

Jose Ortiz volunteered at the event for the second time this year. He helped the elementary children create their graduation caps. The dreams he saw illustrated included becoming a gymnast, a singer, a military engineer and a basketball player.

"I just kind of encourage them to think for themselves, like what do they really want to do in life, not necessarily try to follow someone but make their own path," Ortiz said.

Although the college students are there to help the kids learn, it is also an educational experience for the volunteers and the student employees who help run the activity. Tille said the activity is very much run and led by the students.

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"They help me think about the coordination of the schedule and the activities that we do, and so each person had a leadership role in this and then I was really just there to help coordinate them and support their efforts," Tille said.

While helping with the activity, Westminster students learn to work with elementary school students, and learn what it is like to work with diverse populations and refugees.

"Not only are the elementary school students getting an opportunity to do these different service projects and see what a college campus is like, our students are getting that service opportunity with the children," Sudberry said.