"Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream of equality," the eighth-grade students recited, "that emphasized all people would live in harmony. He had hopes to stop all of this segregation, so all colors could live in a peaceful nation. He became a leader in the Civil Rights Movement, because he felt the world needed improvement. MLK led many boycotts and protests, which eventually led to his numerous arrests. The protests he led were violent free, which he learned from a man named Ghandi. Even though he suffered many personal attacks, he remained the symbolic leader for American blacks."
Starkman, Owolo and Arita were a few of the many students who participated in Monday morning's Power to Learn educational initiative - which promotes reading and literacy in the tri-state area - at the middle school. In conjunction with Cablevision's Power to Learn and the History Channel, students had the opportunity to view of a clip of the documentary film "King," speak with historian Kimberly Gilmore by conference call, and give presentations about King's legacy.
"I Have A Dream" was his world famous speech; equality for all is what he preached," Starkman, Owolo and Arita continued, as television cameras rolled. "MLK wrote a book called "Why We Can't Wait," which talked about ending all this segregation and hate. Although he won the Nobel Peace Prize, he felt that he didn't deserve it, in his eyes. On April 4, 1969, James Earl Ray was the assassinator that brought MLK to his fate."
Morris said that the 45 eighth graders who came to the library of Ponus Ridge Monday morning were the beginnings of the future leaders of the country.
"We're inviting you to be those leaders," he told the students.
"Power to Learn. I love that phrase," Curtis said. "One of the things we learned from Dr. King...was his letter from the Birmingham jail....You have the power to unleash that same intellectual capital within you. Ask yourselves: How can I make the world in which I live a better place?"
"[These projects] have given the students a modern social conscious," social studies teacher MaryAnn Long said. In addition to the poem, some of the students created a slideshow and a musical number, which they performed.
"We realize how far we've come," Long said, "and how much we still have to accomplish."
Schmidt said after the Power to Learn event that she has had the pleasure of teaching some of the Ponus Ridge students as a substitute.
"I enjoy meeting with the upcoming leaders of tomorrow," she said. "I thought that [the Power to Learn program] was awesome. It was great how they composed the song. It gives you hope. They put a lot of work into it."