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MLK's legacy hailed; Young poets pay tribute to leader.

Byline: Alli Knothe

"As one We fight / Armed with the words of Dr. King Jr. / Equipped with the courage of Alice Paul / Prepared with the wisdom of Richard Isay /.../ To fight hostility / Without the savagery / that comes with using fists out of angst.''

"Armed with Words'' (excerpt)

By Katia Adida Wheeler, Worcester Technical High School senior

WORCESTER -- A record number of students submitted their poems for this year's Martin Luther King Jr. Poetry Contest, a part of the breakfast held each year to honor the memory of the civil rights leader while celebrating local youth.

On Saturday morning, 26 contest winners from Grades 7 through 12 were recognized at the 20th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Youth Breakfast Celebration at the Worcester State University Student Center. The winners were chosen from a pool of nearly 400 submissions and awarded a prize of $50 each, said Dorothy Hargrove, chairman of the Poetry Contest Committee, who has taught in the public school system and is now a professor of education at Fitchburg State University.

The number of submissions is substantial, she said, because this is a great opportunity for students to be creative while learning about the history of the civil rights movements and how it reflects on their own lives.

"It gives them something real to write about,'' explained Mary Seraichick, an English and history teacher at St. Mary School in Shrewsbury, who attended the event. "It combines literature and history. ... This is where the rubber meets the pavement.''

More than 100 people attended the event, which also featured performances by the Grafton Street Elementary School Choir, the Seven Hills Charter Show Choir, The Friendly House Group, and Springfield soloist Vanessa Ford.

An aspiring teacher, 18-year-old Antoinette Mutuyimana said that she was impressed with the event and hopes to perform a mixed-cultural dance in next year's festivities.

"He reminds us what he went through for freedom and equality,'' she said. "We're celebrating what he has done for us.''

The event also included a video tribute to Nelson Mandela, who died last month.

Mayor Joseph M. Petty presented awards to Demario Andres and Jennifer Odame for their service in the community. Karen Ojeda and Nikolas Blodgett were winners of the Worcester State University President's Scholarship.

Another event recognizing Rev. King's birthday will be held Monday morning at the Quinsigamond Community College athletic center.

Contact Alli Knothe at Follow her on Twitter @KnotheA
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Title Annotation:Local
Author:Knothe, Alli
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jan 19, 2014
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