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MLK Celebration

Celebrating the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

2024 Theme: "Living the Dream: It Starts With Me - Spreading Hope, Courage and Unity"

The University of Central Missouri's MLK Celebration, held each year in January, is an opportunity for our community to pause and reflect on the work and impact of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., while recommitting to the goal of showing respect and dignity toward one another.


Fundraiser and Banquet

image of Dr. King

The MLK Celebration is only possible through the generous donations and sponsorships of the community. Funds raised at our November event go directly to deserving students, who will be recognized at the Banquet in January.

Fundraiser and Banquet Information


Call for Artists

imaeg of call for artists for mlk banquet

The MLK Committee sought a wide variety of artists and art forms to help us celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, and this year's theme.


MLK award recipients

Freedom Scholarships

Each year, the UCM Alumni Foundation awards Freedom Scholarships to high school students who are accepted to UCM and/or are returning UCM students. These students are recognized at the annual MLK Freedom Scholarship Banquet in January.  

Click here  to go to the UCM Scholarship Finder page, the online one-stop portal for all UCM Alumni Foundation scholarships, and search for "Freedom Scholarship."

There is always a need for contributions to keep the MLK Freedom Scholarships going! Donate here.

Pictured are last year's recipients of the MLK Freedom Scholarship: Michaela Hines, Julia Peters, Alexis King and Alex Green, together with presenters Provost Dr. Phil Bridgmon, President Dr. Roger Best, and Director of the Center for Multiculturalism and Inclusivity Dr. Lover Chancler.

two female military members walking and smiling at each other

Community Service Awards

These awards, co-sponsored by the Warrensburg Chamber of Commerce, honor those in our community who exemplify humanitarianism, leadership, and selfless service.

The Community Service Award is open to any individual in Johnson County, and the High School Community Service Award is open to any student enrolled in high school in Johnson County.

2024 Awards were presented on Wednesday, January 10, 2024 at the Chamber's Community Service Awards Luncheon. See below for more details!

Past MLK Community Service Award Recipients

MLK 50 image

The MLK50 Pledge: a Call to Peace and Action

April of 2018 marked 50 years since Dr. King's assassination. Click here to take the MLK50 Pledge, and commit to 50 achievable actions that realize Dr. King's legacy of peace.


2023/2024 Calendar of Events


All events are open to the public and most are free to attend - everyone is welcome!


Saturday, November 18, 2023
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Freedom Scholarship Fundraiser

6:00 pm Social & Silent Auction
6:45 pm Dinner, dessert reception to follow the program
Elliott Student Union Ballrooms
500 S. Holden St, Warrensburg, MO

image for Dr. Martin Luther King with words "what are you doing for others?"

Hosted by the Center for Multiculturalism and Inclusivity at the University of Central Missouri, the MLK Freedom Scholarship Fundraiser will feature student performances and a silent auction to raise funds for the Martin Luther King Freedom Scholarship, which assists students who are often from underprivileged backgrounds in their pursuit of higher education. Scholarship funds raised through this event will be presented to students at the Freedom Scholarship Banquet, held on January 16, 2024.

Some ticket levels had built-in pre-registration for the Freedom Scholarship Banquet in January.

Wednesday, January 10, 2024
Chamber Community Service Awards Luncheon

11:45 am - 1:00 pm
American Legion Post 131
733 E. Young St., Warrensburg, MO
Cost: $15 for Chamber members, $20 for non-members

Hosted by the Warrensburg Chamber of Commerce, this annual luncheon honors the recipients of the Community Service and High School Community Service awards.

Photo of pastor Joel Kurz

Speaker: Pastor Joel Kurz, Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Warrensburg

Joel was born in Tennessee to a long line of pastors and nurses. While still an infant, his missionary pastor-father and nurse-mother returned for another post in the Philippines, and there he spent his first seven years of life. Beyond that, his youth was spent in St. Louis County, Missouri, and South-Central Texas, where he graduated from high school. Joel attended The College of the Ozarks (working in the landscaping department) and graduated with a B.A. in English, then worked for a year as a CNA at a residential facility for the disabled in Wisconsin while learning Greek and Hebrew. Joel attended Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, and graduated with an M.Div. in 1997, having done internships in Baltimore, Maryland, and Pensacola, Florida.

Following four years as a pastor in Youngstown, Ohio, he returned to Missouri and cared for his father during the last six years of a debilitating illness. Since 2007, Joel has been the pastor of Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Warrensburg. It has been his honor and privilege to serve the members of that congregation and this community in various capacities in the past sixteen years, especially in partnership with others to care for the natural world and fellow human beings in distressing and difficult circumstances. He has been on the board of a small international relief agency for over a decade—having made several trips to Uganda—and is currently serving as a conduit for Ukrainian refugee assistance happening through partner congregations and agencies in Germany.

Joel’s poetry and essays have appeared in numerous journals over the years, and he is an avid runner, hiker, reader, gardener, and cook. He aims to live in gratitude and attentiveness, knowing that life is best when shared with others for the common good.

Sharon Franklin    Claire Thomas  

From the 2024 Luncheon: Sharon Franklin, a long-time volunteer for the Western Missouri Medical Center Auxiliary, received the MLK Community Service Award. Claire Thomas, an exemplary Warrensburg High School student, received the MLK High School Community Service Award. The awards were presented by Joshua Detherage, Chair of the Warrensburg Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, and Dr. Lover Chancler, Director of the UCM Center for Multiculturalism and Inclusivity. 



Community Praise and Worship Service

Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church
212 N. Main St., Warrensburg, MO

photo of the ABC Gospel Choir

Come together for this service in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose faith was the foundation of his activism. Enjoy performances from choirs and other groups from throughout the community!

Monday, January 15, 2024

MLK Celebration - Lee's Summit Campus

Doors open at 5:00 pm
Event 5:30-7:00 pm
The Pavillion at John Knox
520 NW Murray Rd, Lee's Summit, MO

MLK Celebration in Lee's Summit

Join others in the Lee's Summit community for a celebration that will include faculty and student awards and the presentation of the MLK Art Contest award to a Lee's Summit R-VII student.

Contact Rick Smetana at for more information.


Tuesday, January 16, 2024
Let's Talk: 
"Empathy Revolution: Walking in Others' Shoes"

12:00-1:00 pm
Elliott Student Union 306 & virtual

image of the Lets Talk event

Contact Esosa Akele at for more information.


Tuesday, January 16, 2024
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Freedom Scholarship Banquet

5:00 pm Doors open
6:00 pm Event begins
Elliott Student Union Ballrooms
500 S. Holden St., Warrensburg, MO

Nikkita and Kaitlyn

Join us to celebrate Dr. King’s legacy of bold action in pursuit of justice, inclusion, and the beloved community. Meet this year's Freedom Scholarship winners, enjoy vocal and dance performances from UCM and community members, view works of art by local students inspired by Dr. King’s message, and enjoy the presentation of the 2024 MLK Freedom Scholarships.  Heavy hors d'oeuvres served. All funds raised at this event go directly to deserving UCM undergraduate students through the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Freedom Scholarship.


Wednesday, January 17, 2024
Volunteer Fair

11:00 am-1:00 pm
Elliott Student Union atrium

word "volunteer" held up by many hands

Visit with a wide variety of our community partners looking for YOU to help fulfill their mission!

Contact Kristie Brinkley at with questions.


Thursday, January 18, 2024

Day of Service - Warrensburg Campus

10:00 am-4:00 pm
Elliott Student Union Ballrooms

MLK Service Day poster

You don't have to be at the event for the entire time, so feel free to select the time slot(s) that is most convenient for you!

For more information or questions, please contact Kristie Brinkley at


Friday, January 19, 2024

Day of Service - Lee's Summit Campus

12:00 - 4:00 pm

students at Lee's Summit MLK service day


January 23-24, 2024
Community Service Blood Drive

10:00 am-4:00 pm
Elliott Student Union Ballrooms

MO the Mule giving blood

Give the gift of life! Appointments preferred; walk-ins accepted as time and available staff allow. When information is finalized, registration will be available online. 

Contact Kristie Brinkley at with questions.



For more information about UCM's MLK Celebration, please contact Dr. Lover Chancler at 660-543-8049 or


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