Charter schools celebrate MLK’s memory
Schools may have been closed Monday, but the city of Cape Coral and the Cape Coral Charter School Authority teamed up to celebrate the legacy of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., on the day named in his honor.
The Oasis High School gymnasium hosted a “Unity Celebration,” featuring readings from charter school students, videos of King’s life, the Oasis High School a capella group and a ceremonial march around the school.
Jacqueline Collins, interim superintendent of the charter schools, said the event symbolized the unity of the city and the school system.
“We want to share the work of Dr. King. He symbolizes unity and compassion and non-violence, and in this day and age, it’s a very important message to send,” Collins said. “Dr. King said if there isn’t non-violence, there’s non-existence. We all have to work together as a community, a nation and a world.”
The theme for this year’s event was “Keep Marching On,” and featured Fire Chief Tracy McMillion of the Iona-McGregor Fire Department.
City Manager John Szerlag said at his previous job in Michigan, they didn’t take the day off, and this event, meant for young people, was to educate people on King’s legacy.
“Dr. King made great strides in achieving equality, not just between races but between genders and ethnicity,” Szerlag said. “One of the underpinning values of society is treating people equally.”
Collins spoke of the diversity of the charter schools, “four schools with one vision,” she said, which features students from eight nations who speak five languages, and teachers who hold masters and doctorate degrees.
Ryan Rosado of Christa McAuliffe Elementary, Sophia Brook of Oasis Elementary, Eric Feichthaler of Oasis Middle and Oriana Troche of Oasis High School gave readings, with King videos interspersed.
“It’s wrong to hate. It’s wrong in Afghanistan, it’s wrong in Somalia, it’s wrong in Syria It was wrong in 2,000 B.C., it was wrong in Alabama in 1954 A.D. Hating is and will always be wrong. Love is what is right,” Rosado said.
“The choice today is not between violence and on-violence, it’s either non-violence or non-existence,” said Troche, student body president.
The keynote speaker, McMillion, woke up the sleepy crowd in a hurry, saying good morning four times before getting the response he wanted.
He also reminded everyone of the theme of this year’s event, reinforcing it by having the crowd interact by telling those next to them and even across the gym “Friend, we have to keep marching on.”
McMillion said when he thought of what King did in such a short period of time, it amazed him, from his letters, to his famous speeches, to his organization of marches.
As a result of this marching on, America has made progress, but there is still much work to do, he said. That is up to the young generation.
“Young people, I believe your generation will be the one that brings Dr. King’s dream to fulfillment, if you keep on marching. If you keep marching, yours will be the generation in which people are judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin,” McMillion said.
In the symbolic march, Szerlag and Interim Fire Chief Ryan Lamb locked arms with a group of people as the singing group performed “Amazing Grace.”
Many of the kids came away with a better understanding about King’s life and the result of his work.
“If he didn’t do what he did, we might still have segregation today. Every person deserves the same chances as a white person. A black person should have the same job and go to the same schools,” said Courtney Webb, 10. “It’s not the color that matters, but the heart.”
“I need to keep marching on and that King did some amazing things for our country as a whole,” Cassidy Lamb, 11, said. “His ‘I Have a Dream’ speech made everyone come together and be a family.”