Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Gazette Premium Content After studying Martin Luther King Jr., a new generation dreams of change at Colorado Springs school

By Debbie Kelley Updated: August 28, 2013 at 9:44 pm

Fifty years ago Wednesday, Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream he shared with the nation.

Five decades later, students at Taylor Elementary School have their own dreams of how the world could be changed to be a better place.

Fifth grader Valeria Caro wants people to stop abusing children. She says she had a friend who was abused by her parents and saw first-hand how terrible it is.

In her rendition of "I Have a Dream," Valeria writes: "Kids should be loved and respected, just like grownups. When the kids are abused they get scared that when they grow up they might become an abuser, too. People who hurt kids and cause bruises and a lot of blood loss should go to jail for 90 years."

In April, in commemorating the 45th anniversary of King's assassination, third and fourth graders at Taylor Elementary in Colorado Springs School District 11 studied the work of the civil rights leader and dug deep into their souls to bring to light their own visions.

The students once again watched the 17-minute video of King's historic address on Tuesday, the eve of the 50th anniversary of King delivering his message at the Lincoln Memorial during the 1963 March on Washington.

They dug out their speeches, re-read them and discussed what they see as important issues of the day that need fixing.

"Martin Luther King was very secure with what he was saying and very powerful. He put things in a positive way of how to change them," said 9-year-old Ruby Walker.

"It was brave of him to do that speech," said fourth grader Leif Watters. "It was a great speech, not to judge people by the color of their skin but by the character inside them."

Like King's hope that his four children would "one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character," Ruby hopes to live in a nation where bullying doesn't exist because like racism, it's "disrespectful" and "hurts hearts."

"I wrote that to honor Dr. King," she said.

Elliette Igel-Manvitz calls King "my hero" and said his words inspired her to make a difference writing about animal cruelty, which she calls "infuriating" and "very scary."

"I believe that anyone who abuses animals should go to jail until they have learned how to take care of animals," she writes. "After that, they shouldn't ever be able to have a pet again, even if they're just pet sitting."

The kids also voiced their desires to eradicate school shootings, alcohol abuse, drunk driving, drug use, illegal poaching of animals and smoking cigarettes.

"I hope my speech changes at least a couple people," Elliette said.

Taylor Elementary teacher Trudy Welsh said the depth of the students' projects - which incorporated the subjects of history, English, art and technology - shows that King's legacy continues to motivate all ages.

"Being able to do this and publish their work and have it displayed at the school shows them the value of their own voice," she said.

As Valeria said, "Dr. King is a really good example for other people. The point of his speech is there is no difference between black and white - we're all the same."

And, said 9-year-old Aidan Crow, "His dream inspired people to be nicer to one another. That's what I want. I wrote about Sandy Hook because I can't believe someone would kill little children and teachers."

But as Elliette pointed out, "There's still people who don't appreciate what Dr. King said and did."

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