Tuesday’s music selection during Berea College’s annual Labor Day celebration was as diverse as the school’s student population.
A group of girls gathered in a circle on the College Quadrangle and danced to Bob Marley’s “Jammin,” and a volunteer sang along to Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” while serving free grilled chicken and ears of corn for lunch.
The special day of celebration dates back to 1922. While it celebrates the work of the college’s faculty and staff, it was created mostly to focus on student labor, said David Tipton, dean of labor at Berea College.
“We try to have our departments involved in the day so that they are showcasing some of the things they do,” Tipton said. “One of the things we try to do is celebrate all the work the students, as well as the faculty and staff, have done throughout the year. It’s a celebration of our work, and a day where we celebrate the dignity of our labor. That’s what makes us different. When you look at Berea College, we could not operate without our student labor.”
Mark Brooks, a senior physical education major and a teacher’s assistant in the department, said the students’ work is a significant benefit.
There are about 15 student laborers in the department, and they help give more one-on-one attention to each student, Brooks said.
Attending a college that sets aside an entire day to pay homage to those who work throughout the year is very special, he said.
“I think it’s pretty awesome, and it doesn’t start until 10 (a.m.),” Brooks said. “You don’t even have to get up early, then you can come hang out and have fun.”
Jayla Pennycuff, a senior student manager in the college’s public safety department, said student workers are relied upon greatly in the department and many serve as trained dispatchers for campus security.
As a student, Pennycuff said she appreciated the college for making efforts to acknowledge all that is done by student laborers.
“A lot of our students put in a lot of hard work,” she said.
For the first time, the celebration included the Berea Academy Awards show that featured several student academic and labor awards.
The evening’s event was conducted in Phelps-Stokes Auditorium, and was co-hosted by alumnus Joe Saleem and senior Anna Rafferty.
Students were awarded for outstanding achievement in academics, the labor program and for campus service.
These awards normally are distributed through the semester, but this event will have all awards ceremonies wrapped up into one, Tipton said.
Awards and scholarships totaling more than $100,000 were distributed Tuesday during the Berea Academy Awards.
Ronica Shannon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 624-6608.