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Children celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream by sharing their own

To close out the celebration, a lei was garlanded onto the statue of Martin Luther King Jr. in UNF’s Peace Plaza. Photo by Jordan Perez

In light of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, UNF’s Intercultural Center for PEACE hosted a celebration to honor Dr. King’s legacy as a prominent civil rights leader and educator, as well as to promote literacy and education on Friday, January 15th.

Hosted by Kamele “Oupa” Seane, director of the Intercultural Center for PEACE, the event featured speakers Dr. Susan Syverud, associate professor of special education, and alumnus Robert Rosales.

Fifth grade safety patrol students attended the event, which signaled the importance of Dr. King’s value of education to the future generations. They recited the speech during the event as a way to display their appreciation to the  former civil rights leader.

Seane said the connection between Dr. King’s works and school made it “paramount for children to learn his speech.”

Both Dr. Susan Syverud and Robert Rosales stressed the importance of education and the prevention of reading failure.

To the audience, Dr. Syverud acknowledged that Dr. King would “rejoice in learning that students with and without disabilities are taught side by side in the same classrooms.”  Dr. King, according to Syverud, would have also rejoiced in learning that the graduation rates in Duval County for African-Americans have risen from 66.8 % to 71 %.

Syverud spoke of the inequalities that still exist within the the achievement gap for reading. The National Association for Educational Progress reported in 2015 that only 36 % of fourth graders scored at a proficient level of reading or higher, while 64 % of fourth graders scored at a basic level or below.

“No longer can we blame teachers, who are expected to differentiate instruction when the great majority of their students are performing below or significantly below grade level expectations,”  Dr. Syverud said.

During the celebration event, Duval County students displayed their appreciation for King’s leadership in education by reciting his most notable “I Have a Dream” speech.

Fifth grade safety patrols from Woodland Acres Elementary recited  the speech and concluded the event by sharing their own dreams for themselves and for the world.

One student said that her dream was that every child could go to college and get an education. Another student said that his dream was that every parent could have the power and energy to take care of their children.

After the students shared their dreams, Dr. Scott Hochwald, chairman of the mathematics department of UNF, garlanded a yellow lei onto the Martin Luther King Jr. statue that proudly stands in UNF’s Peace Plaza. This statue faces a statue of Mahatma Gandhi, which stands on the opposite of the plaza.

Dr. King’s position as an educator and preacher was the theme behind the event, and his dedication to progress has inspired many, even on UNF’s very own campus.

For more information or news tips, or if you see an error in this story, contact [email protected].

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