ELMSFORD, N.Y. Even though the holiday had already passed, it did not stop the students at Alice E. Grady Elementary School from honoring and learning about the message and importance of Dr. Martin Luther King.
On Friday, Jan. 20, students and a group of parents gathered in the Grady auditorium, away from the cold wind outside, to celebrate with an assembly commemorating King and the civil rights movement.
"We have spent some time on building character," said Elsa Kortright-Torres, principal at Grady. "Dr. King spoke about his dream many years ago. He talked about judging people by the content of their character, not by the way they looked. Like Dr. King had a dream, you will fulfill your own dreams if you work hard, if you stay focused if you are respectful, if you are safe, if you're ready and responsible. But it starts with you."
The second and third graders sang songs about freedom and keeping King's dream alive. The fourth graders read King's biographical highlights while the fifth graders recited poems about King's spirit, dreams and "peaceful courage." The sixth graders read letters that they had written to children that they saw in civil rights movement pictures, detailing how the pictures affected them. They spoke of segregation, hardship, diversity, sadness, gratitude and compassion.
Elmsford Superintendent of Schools Barbara Peters gave the audience a quick history lesson on King, educating them on his life and experiences. The students had learned King's life story in class, and clapped and cheered as Peters read some of King's highlights, like winning a Nobel Prize. She also shared some of her favorite King quotes, and encouraged the children to search for their own.
"The kids enjoy the assemblies, but I don't ever want our assembly programs not to be meaningful and educational," said Peters. "Time on task in the classroom in critical for improving student achievement. So when we do an assembly, I ask my administrators to try to make sure that the lessons are tied to the curriculum in the classrooms and that the students do activities in the classroom to tie what they learned into what they're doing."
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