MLK program fosters community in system-wide “Caring Cougar Cards” event

Synchronous event allowed all WSU campuses to connect



Senior psychology major Ben Sherry (left) and senior biology and business management major Fatimah Alvaqshi (right) create caring cougar cards, Tuesday, Jan. 18, in the CUB.

JUSTIN WASHINGTON, Evergreen research editor

On Jan. 18, WSU hosted “Caring Cougar Cards,” a system-wide event in honor of MLK Day. All campuses, both in-person and Zoom, provided materials for students to make cards for community partners across the nation. 

“MLK Day is the only national day that is meant to be a day of community service,” Andria Donnenworth, program coordinator of WSU’s MLK program, said. “You’re supposed to have time off from school to go get community service. So, I wanted to really put that focus back into MLK Day.”

Each campus identified a community partner they wanted to send cards to. Pullman cards are designated for the patients or employees of Bishop Place Senior Living in Pullman, Donnenworth said.

Virtual participants could either send their cards to a community partner of their choice or one designated by WSU.

“This [event] has a personal significance to me,” Reanne Chilton, president of the graduate and professional student association and co-organizer of the event, said. “The partner that we chose to honor, Bishop Place, is … seeing a lot of tragedy because of the vulnerable population that they work with. It’s personal to me because my mother passed away from [COVID-19].”

Chilton said she understands how hard it is for essential workers to work with older and vulnerable populations and is grateful that people have the heart to do it.

Ben Sherry, senior psychology major and director of University Affairs for ASWSU, said he volunteered at Bishop Place during his freshman and sophomore years. Sherry said he was motivated to make cards for them when WSU chose the organization.

“I’m excited that it’s going back to the community members,” he said.

Sherry said this event aligns with the theme of MLK Day because it allows people to come out and support members of the community when others are not able to do so.

“I know that I’ve got the able hands and the ready mind to do it, so why not?” he said.

Chilton said this event aligns with MLK Day because connection to other people is what makes life fundamentally meaningful.

“It can be so easy … to let that connection slip away and not recognize what people are doing for us and how much that means to us,” she said.

She said making cards for these partners and recognizing what they do for the community has a profound impact.

Donnenworth has served in the MLK program for three years, but this was the first year they hosted this event. She said she was very excited with how many participants attended the event across the various campuses and virtually.

Donnenworth said she hopes to continue the event for years to come and said it was a good stress reliever, especially given the hectic start to the semester.

All campuses live-streamed the event over Zoom where virtual participants could join in. This not only allowed the event to be synchronous across all campuses, but also allowed people to showcase their cards for others to see.

“I really appreciate the fact that we’re connecting,” Donnenworth said. “This is the first time that we’re not only doing a system-wide event, but it’s a synchronous event. So we have every single WSU campus that should be represented as well as our global campus.”