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John Monfredo: Worcester Students Remember Dr. King in Thier Work

Saturday, January 26, 2013


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "Life's most persistent and urgent question is: 'What are you doing for others?'" Each year, Americans across the country answer that question by coming together on MLK Day to serve their community and pledge to assist others. In Worcester, a number of special events highlighted the weekend with Worcester students writing poems, essays and creating art displays about how Dr. King, Jr. inspired us.

Hosted by Worcester State University, a Saturday breakfast affair took place with students from public and private schools being awarded for their selection in a poetry contest about Dr. King. This was the 19th consecutive year for the breakfast for youth honoring Dr. King, and according to Worcester State Provost Charles Cullum, “This event is considered to be one of the area’s premier community events for and by youth commemorating the birthday and life of America’s greatest civil rights leader.”

Dorothy Hargrove, a retired teacher and community activist who chaired the poetry contest, stated that she was amazed by the number of entrants and their knowledge about Dr. King. Poetry winners honored were Carmelo Acevedo, Burncoat High School; Corey Millos, Robert Roy, Deanna Tortora, Amy–Clair Dauphin, Devereaux Sgammato of Holy Name; Bernice Appiah, South High; Justin Mahan, Felix Pelteku, Kiara Sanchez, Maya Asbridge and Isabelle McCarthy of Doherty High; Angelica Chavez, University Park Campus; Luis Castro, Claremont Academy; Miles Arnett, Lillian Cain, Katherine McFarlane, Fiifi Abakah, Kaleigh Adu, Maxine McInnes, Una Stivers and Lillian Wright of Sullivan Middle School; and Kathryn Swartz and Robert Ciottone of St. Leo’s Catholic School in Leominster.

The poetry written by the students is powerful! Here are some of their excerpts:

“Let us all come together
Let us unify
Let us bring an end to discrimination
Let black men and white men live side by side without strife
Such was the dream of an optimist.” - Fiifi Abakah

“His dream is still unfinished
But we can all be patient
And so for now, we thank you, King
For giving all of us inspiration.” - Miles Arnett

“We all know what Martin Luther King did, but why was it great
Some believe that it was because he fought, not with his fist,
But with his faith.” – Katherine McFarlane

“Great is he who seeks peace among those who hate him.
To gain persistence claimed him.
Yet he died before seeing his dream unfolding;
For a United Nations to come together.
Martin Luther King’s dreams has now come to pass.” – Bernice Appiah

The event also recognized other students for their commitment in helping others. The MLK Youth Service Award went to Jesse Leidel, and the MLK Community Service Award went to Caleb Encarnacion-Rivera.

Then on Monday, the official MLK, Jr. Day, there was a great gathering at Quinsigamond Community College for the 28th annual Worcester County Community Breakfast. Led by Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray, political officials from the state and the city, civic and educational leaders came together with the public to honor the life of Dr. King, Jr. Guest speaker for the event was Dr. Alvin Poussaint, a psychiatrist, media consultant and author. He entertained the audience with his humor and his knowledge of the history of the Black movement in America.

The Master of Ceremonies was James Leary, Vice Chancellor, Community Relations at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. During the event the Herbert A. Wilson Minority Achievement Award was presented to Worcester Firefighter Frederick Cowan for being a vocal advocate for equality and for his strong advocacy for minority affairs.

The Community Breakfast for the past 28 years has awarded scholarships totaling over $142,000 to those students going on to post-secondary education. This year, college scholarships were awarded to Amber Facchini, Minh Tam Ha, Issa Noel, and Mary Xatse.

In order to bring a sense of meaning to the youth in our community, the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. committee continues to hold an essay and art contest in the schools. The essay topic was “What does being free, a free person in America, mean to you?”

Essay winners were Thomas Conroy from St. Peter Central Catholic, grade 8, Vi Nguyen from Goddard Scholars Academy at Sullivan Middle, grade 8 and Eva Katana from Holy Name High School, grade 12.

The essays were exceptional! Here are just snippets from what the students wrote:

“Being a free American means that I can choose to believe in whatever I wish, think however I want and worship in whatever religion I please. It means I cannot be forced to change my viewpoint against my will, but it also means I am free to change my mind when I am presented with new information and new facts … Freedom in America means we have the right to a fair trial in which verdicts are determined by non-biased juries and the accused have the right to confront their accusers and be represented by lawyers … I believe that America is still the best society in which we live because it allows for people to grow and change in ways we may never have seen coming, and it allows us to push ourselves to be better… All we need to do is treat and see each other fairly. As Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. also said seven months after the march on Washington, “We must learn as brothers or we will perish together as fools.” – Thomas Conroy

“When I was eight years old, my family decided to immigrate to the United States to escape the communist government and to pursue opportunities lacking in Vietnam. The process was a lot more complicated than I had imagined…I never told my parents or anyone of these fears, but when we finally got our visas and got to the airport, I was suddenly worried again. Were the police going to come after us? … When I stepped off the plane five years ago, all I could think of was how I was half way across the world and that the police could no longer pursue my family, and we were free at last. I am grateful to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for the work he did to allow for others to accept me and my family in school, in our neighborhood, and in my parent’s jobs. Those words, “Free at last; thank God almighty, we are free at last” make more sense to me and they have changed my views forever; they tell two stories about risk taking, sacrifice and freedom.” –Vi Nguyen

“Can you imagine what it must be like to be ostracized or severally punished because of your appearance? Well, that’s the norm for people living in Congo,DRC. My country was ruled by a dictator, Joseph Mobutu Sese Seko… Then Laurent Kabila came along… Kabila was corrupt and had many evil intentions in mind. He decided that anyone who looked like they were Rwaandese, Ougandaise, or Burundian … without any question would have to suffer the consequences by either being burned alive, shot dead, arrested or raped… During the war my father and mother moved to America as refugees… School was difficult for me because I only spoke French. We were made fun of because we wore the same clothes repeatedly; we were very poor… My freedom is tangible and I vow to never take it for granted. Moreover, I plan to take advantage of all the opportunities that my freedom offers while remembering to do my part to achieve my goals. My academic grades in school are a reflection of my earnestness to achieve my goals. I am blessed to be a citizen of the United States of America where I can not only dream but where I am given the opportunity and freedom to realize my dreams.” – Eva Katana

The winning essays certainly reflect the true meaning of the day, for we should never take our freedom for granted. Other student winners honored at the breakfast were in art. Individual winners were Toni Dakhi, grade 4 from City View Discovery; Jon Skende, grade 5 from Midland Street School; and Ivana Agyekum Menjah, grade 6 at Goddard Scholars Academy at Sullivan Middle. Art Group winners were City View Discovery, grade 4 and grade 5 under the direction of Art teacher Mary Ann McFarland. The art pieces may be seen at the Higgins Education Wing of the Worcester Art Museum from February 4th to 24th during regular Museum hours.

This week not only marked the remembrance of Dr. King’s birthday but was the second inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the United States. Dr. King would be so proud! 


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