Boulder Valley, CU students lead local Martin Luther King celebrations

January 17, 2011

By Whitney Bryen,

Posted: 01/17/2011 04:04:51 PM MST

Boulder Daily Camera


For many students, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is just another day off from school - but for nearly 100 youth in Boulder County, Monday was a day of celebration and remembrance of the slain human rights leader.

Instead of playing video games, skiing or sleeping the day away, students from Angevine and Manhattan middle schools, Alexander Dawson, Peak to Peak Charter School and Boulder, Fairview and Centaurus high schools, as well as the University of Colorado, promoted service and equality at a pair of rallies in Boulder and Lafayette.

Both celebrations included a civil rights rally with students and community speakers, music and marches in honor of King. And both were organized and run by students.

"It was all the kids," said Elaina Verveer, a CU instructor and program director for the Youth Advisory Committee of Lafayette. "They did this with only the help of a couple adults and it's been great."

About 50 Lafayette students and 30 CU students contributed to the city's sixth annual MLK Day celebration - the first time the event has been completely student-organized, Verveer said.

The celebration began with a march that ended at Escuela Bilingue Pioneer Elementary, where a rally was held followed by a service fair. Approximately 465 community members attended the event.

"This is really the only MLK celebration in the city or even in East Boulder County, for that matter," Verveer said. "And these kids are the ones who started it. They filled the need six years ago when it started."

Student-hosted service projects continued into the afternoon, including making crafts to donate to locals in need, a donation drive benefiting local nonprofit organizations and an awareness campaign educating the community on immigrant-education issues.

Sierra Thompson, 11, a student at Angevine Middle School and her sister Patience, 10, who attends Lafayette Elementary, spent the afternoon making no-sew blankets for Lafayette's homeless population.

"I feel good when I go to events when I can help people out," Sierra said. "I thought it would be good to come and help other people and it's fun."

In Boulder, Fairview junior Bonnie Rogers and Boulder High junior Ariel Amaru - both members of Boulder's Youth Opportunities Advisory Board - planned the "Rally to Restore His Legacy," which organizers estimated brought out about 1,500 community members during its peak at Boulder High School.

Boulder's event began on the Pearl Street Mall with several student speakers and remarks from Mayor Susan Osborne on the recent shooting in Tucson, Ariz.

The "vicious attack" in Arizona gives Americans a chance to stand against violence and take responsibility for their actions, Osborne said.

"We cannot and will not be silent in the face of such violence," Osborne said. "Let us use this occasion to expand our moral imagination."

Dozens of children held cardboard signs with words of peace and love hand-drawn with crayons as they sat on the ground listening to the speakers and music at the rally.

Tavi Moddel, 7, of Boulder, watched King's "I Have a Dream" speech with his mother, Naomi, and neighborhood friends before heading to the event.

"We're marching for MLK Junior because he helped people have freedom," Tavi said as he waited for the march to begin. And moments later, he walked proudly down Pearl Street, holding his head - painted with a large crown mask in honor of King - high.

The entire student body of Watershed School - a private middle and high school in Boulder - attended the celebration as a group, since they did not get the day off.

"This is our class today," said Naomi Kirschner, 16, a Watershed junior. "They would rather us come here then stay home playing video games or something. And that's good."

Shanda Gance, an English teacher at Centaurus High School, said her students invited her to Lafayette's MLK celebration, where she was surprised to see so many students working at the event.

"It's great for the kids to learn about MLK," Gance said. "But it's good for the adults, too, who may have forgotten what he stood for. I think we all need a reminder about these things sometimes."

In the News ┬╗Boulder Valley, CU Students Lead Local Martin Luther King Jr. Celebrations

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