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King's 'Dream' inspires youth

January 15, 2001

King's 'Dream' inspires youth



By MARLO BARNHART / Staff Writer

photos: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer

Valentina and Veronica

Above: Twin sisters Valentina, left, and Veronica Wheller, 11, enjoy lunch during the Martin Luther King Jr. Students' Luncheon Celebration at Memorial Recreation Center Monday.

Kaya and Isolla

Above: Sisters Kaya henry, 6, and Isolla Henry, 5, enjoy lunch during Martin Luther King Jr. Students' Luncheon Celebration.

Shantale Perrain is too young to have heard the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. speak, but she knows he wanted black people and white people to be friends.

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The 8-year-old shared her thoughts and feelings at a luncheon for youngsters held at the North Avenue center that was named for the civil rights leader whose birthday was observed Monday.

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Shantale also is aware of King's 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech, parts of which were read to the two dozen young people by Stanley Brown, a community leader and agent with the Washington County Department of Juvenile Justice.

"Stay in school, listen to your parents and go to church," Brown said.

Organized by Ruth Monroe, community activist and Memorial Recreation Center coordinator, the program featured several talks, a question and answer period, games and a spaghetti lunch.

"We celebrate his life because he stood for freedom," Monroe told the children. "And he even died for us, too."

Born in 1929, King would have been 72 had he lived. He was assassinated in 1968 in Memphis, Tenn., at the age of 39.

"Before Martin Luther King, the black people had to sit in the back of the bus," said Jasmine Briscoe, 6.

Monroe stressed to the youngsters that education was one of King's big concerns for all people, black and white.

"Did you know he graduated from high school when he was just 15?" Monroe said.

She said a homework club that operates Monday through Thursday afternoons at Memorial Rec Center is geared toward spurring students to do their best work in school.

"First we do homework, then we have snacks and then we play," she said.

Darrell Briscoe, 9, said he knows Martin Luther King was a nonviolent man.

"He taught us that other people can get hurt if we are violent," Darrell said.

Hagerstown City Police Officer Gerard Kendle works in the HotSpot community program and is a familiar figure to most of the children who attended the event.

"Martin Luther King taught us to treat each other responsibly and with respect," Kendle said.

Shauna Stanley, an Americorp volunteer in Washington County, said she and others work with young people ages 6 to 12 to help them grow into responsible citizens.

Patricia Pfeffer of Transitional Age Youth Program in Washington County said her agency also espouses Martin Luther King's philosophy.

"We work on helping you be the best person you can be," Pfeffer said. Her agency works with youth ages 17 to 21 who have been diagnosed with mental illness and who are dealing with demands of reaching adulthood.

Freedom, self-worth and education were all hallmarks of King's message.

Trevon Broadus, 5, was quick to speak up with what he knew about Martin Luther King.

"He helped some people be free," Trevon said.

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