PC students, faculty and staff recently lived out the College motto, “While We Live, We Serve,” during the annual service project at the GLEAMNS Dr. Benjamin E. Mays Historical Preservation Site in Greenwood.
History professor Dr. Stefan Wiecki led the project on March 30. The service learning project consisted of planting flowers and working on the cotton field on site, readying it for planting, according to Wiecki, who has been involved with efforts at the site.
Students also toured the site and learned more about Mays and his influence on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Student Volunteer Services also joined Wiecki this year, as part of its goal “to connect our students to the history of the community around them,” said Martie Hiott, with PC’s Religious Life and Service.
Hiott remembers participating as a student herself and the impact the day made on her.
“I had never learned about Benjamin Mays before and was shocked that I had not even heard of him,” she said. “I was very grateful for the opportunity to understand more about his life and impact while being able to serve the site.”
Mays, the son of former slaves, was born in Greenwood in 1894. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, became a minister, civil rights leader, and longtime president of Morehouse College in Atlanta.
Mays is revered for his life’s work. Wiecki shared, as a mentor to King, he is credited with laying the intellectual foundations of the civil rights movement.
“At Morehouse, Dr. Mays served as the mentor of Martin Luther King, Jr. and can be considered the father of the civil rights movement,” Wiecki said.
“Dr. Mays always emphasized going after your dreams with zeal, but not to get discouraged by adversity: ‘The tragedy of life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach. It isn’t a calamity to die with dreams unfulfilled, but it is a calamity not to dream. It is not a disgrace not to reach the stars, but it is a disgrace to have no stars to reach for. Not failure, but low aim is sin.’ Dr. Mays is one of America’s most influential and inspiring leaders and it brings me great joy to share his story and his ideas with my students at PC.”
Hiott added, “I hope students will understand the importance of historic sites and, through a day of service, will understand how much work goes into protecting and honoring history. I also hope they learn(ed) something new and (had) fun with other members of the PC community.”