By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — In just 12 days, the city of Philadelphia will hold its 22nd Martin Luther King Day of Service, the largest single day of service in the nation. On Wednesday, Girard College held a countdown kickoff.

More than 145,000 volunteers are expected to take part in 1,800 service projects across the region on Martin Luther King Jr. Day with a major focus on educational justice. This year’s theme was taken from an article written by Dr. King 70 years ago while a student at Morehouse College. In it he wrote, “Intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character– that is the goal of true education.”

“What he was saying is that is not enough to simply seek an education for personal gain,” says Todd Bernstein, president of Global Citizen the non-profit that organizes the Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service. “We all must see education as an opportunity to lift up others in the community.”

The theme is particularly notable given the Girard College headquarters location. It was August 1965 when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. lent his support to the Philadelphia Freedom Fighters as they battled to integrate Girard College. Three years later the first African-American students were admitted. Years later, women were allowed to attend. Today, the school is 87 percent African-American.

Bernstein says the signature project, which will take place at Girard College, will support the Philadelphia Free Library’s Ready by 4th literacy initiative. He says volunteers, led by Mayor Jim Kenney and others will build 250 book nooks or little libraries to be distributed across the city.

“To unconventional places– business where people take their children,” says Bernstein, “barbershops, nail salons, laundromats.”

Mayor Kenney did not attend this year’s press conference, so Deputy Mayor Mike DeBeradinis presented the 19th annual Harris Wofford Active Citizenship Award to Mary Strasser for her years of service to the King Day of Service. She currently serves as acting director of the city of Philadelphia’s new Pre-K program.

“It’s an honor and privilege to serve,” Strasser said with tears in her eyes at the surprise announcement.

Girard College’s Lower School choir opened the day with the award-winning song, “Stand Up,” and students from multiple schools revealed a mural showcasing their interpretation of education with a focus on media.

There’s still time to sign up to volunteer for the Greater Philadelphia MLK Day of Service. Click here for details:

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