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Connecting Civil Rights Movement to Today’s Issues

Nickels Intermediate School sixth-graders related Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech with friendship, freedom and speaking up for each other during a social studies assignment to mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

“He’s important because he motivated people to realize everyone is equal,” said Marie Baar, as she worked to create a historical timeline of King’s life in teacher Melissa Thomas’ class. “He showed people to stand up for what they believe. “If you feel something isn’t right, you should take action and do what you need to do to get it fixed.”

Thomas led the Byron Center Public Schools students in watching a film about King, listening to the speech and then picking out 10 important events in his lifetime. “I want them to walk away today knowing why it’s important and why it’s important to them,” she said.

Students related the topic to bullying, pointing out that before King, it was acceptable to exclude people and treat them poorly because of their race.

“I don’t like to see people bullied,” said Nate Barr. “I want to stand up for other people.”

Lauren James said King made it OK for black and white people to be friends. “It’s important to me because if this hadn’t happened, we’d be separated.”

“It changed the world, what we do, the people we sit with and where we go every day,” added student Samantha Kragt.

Districtwide, schools celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. with lessons on the civil rights leader and his impact.

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio

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