February 26, 2010

Volunteers use MLK speech for inspiration

KELLEY BOUCHARD

— By

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Staff photo by Derek Davis: Tianna Currier, a third grade student at East End Community School, writes words that describe how she feels about a photograph of Martin Luther King Jr. during a workshop at the school. Volunteers from University of Southern Maine and Saint Joseph's College helped conduct the workshop. Photographed on Friday, Jan. 15, 2010.

click image to enlarge

Staff photo by Derek Davis: Michael Blais, an AmeriCorps Vista volunteer from Saint Joesph's College watches as Ronaldo Wakati, a third grade student at East End Community School, writes words that describe how he feels about a photograph of Martin Luther King Jr. during a workshop at the school. Volunteers from University of Southern Maine and Saint Joseph's College helped conduct the workshop. Photographed on Friday, Jan. 15, 2010.

Additional Photos Below

Staff Writer

PORTLAND — The fourth-graders listened intently Friday afternoon as the voice of Martin Luther King Jr. filled the classroom at the East End Community School.

The focus of their attention was the ''I Have a Dream'' speech, delivered by the civil rights leader on Aug. 28, 1963, during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. He was shot to death outside a motel room in Memphis nearly five years later.

''I have a dream,'' said King, his recorded words piercing the air, ''that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.''

The speech was part of a writing workshop offered for students in after-school programs at Portland's East End and Reiche elementary schools in recognition of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Monday.

The event was organized by AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers, University of Southern Maine students and LearningWorks, a social service agency that serves young children, at-risk youths and low-income families.

''A program like this definitely helps with literacy, which we're always working on,'' said Reginald Kennie, an activity leader in the after-school program. ''It also helps kids develop social skills by interacting with community members who come to the school.''

The adult volunteers worked with third-, fourth and fifth-graders. Each student selected words from a transcript of King's speech and used them to write a six-word statement reflecting their thoughts about King.

They also chose photographs that inspired them in a similar way.

Klein Mulongo, a third-grader, chose a photo showing a crowd of people on a city street. ''I picked this one because everyone is together and everyone is equal,'' he said.

Then, one by one, the students wrote their six-word statements on a whiteboard and were photographed standing beside their statements with their adult volunteers.

''Justice is Equal, Dream for Freedom,'' wrote Gage Grindle, a third-grader.

Gage worked with Danny Gay, a USM senior majoring in theater who is a resident assistant in a dormitory on the Gorham campus.

''It's a chance to help children identify important characteristics of equality and freedom and understand what Martin Luther King stood for,'' Gay said of the writing workshop.

The workshop's organizers will publish a book of photos from Friday's program and give a copy to each student, said David Cimato, an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer coordinator.

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

kbouchard@pressherald.com

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Additional Photos

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Staff photo by Derek Davis: Brady Kuch, a senior at the University of Southern Maine, works with Yobilea Wakati, a fourth grade student at East End Community School, during a Martin Luther King Jr. workshop at the school. Volunteers from University of Southern Maine and Saint Joseph's College helped conduct the workshop. Photographed on Friday, Jan. 15, 2010.

  


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