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Arlington students celebrate diversity in schools, march for MLK in Everett
ARLINGTON Approximately 140 students from the Arlington School District are taking part in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. march in Everett Jan. 10, but for the fourth- through 12th-grade members of the schools Respect Teams who are attending, this event is only one part of a year-round curriculum of celebrating diversity.
According to Matt Whitten, one of two Respect coordinators for the Arlington School District, this year marks ASD students second-annual participation in the Everett MLK march, which Whitten believes opens students eyes to different and inspiring perspectives.
I think we want them to encounter the experiences of people who have been involved in causes, Whitten said. The cause of civil rights provides a positive message, but taking part in the march, and hearing from speakers afterward, offers a positive message of citizenship overall. The kids in these Respect Teams are already seen as leaders in their schools, so this experience can further expand their potential.
Shortly before the march in Everett, many Arlington schools schedules made time for mini-marches around their own buildings, just as each school in the district decided in September the specifics of how they would commemorate each months Respect events.
At Kent Prairie Elementary, the All-School Respect Summit in October became an opportunity to teach children about respecting one another through games, while the Mix-Up in November encouraged students to play with new people.
Like their fellow elementary schools in the district, Kent Prairies students donated to community organizations in December, among them the Arlington Food Bank and Kids Kloset, just as they and other ASD schools turned the midweek MLK march in Everett into the centerpiece of a full week of respect-based activities, Jan. 8-12.
Kent Prairie fifth-grader Brandon Mortensen and fourth-graders Paige Quander and Isabella Tift were among the Respect Team members decorating posters for the MLK march before the event, and all three students expressed enthusiasm about the activities and goals of their team, such as dispensing Dream Tickets to students who make respectful choices, and composing I Have a Dream statements about their own dreams for their school, their community and their world.
Tift considers it a really big deal to be able to help her school and surrounding community get together in friendship, so that people wont live their lives in a nutshell. Quander likewise appreciates the opportunity to see how other students and community members encourage respect and celebrate diversity. As for Mortensen, he loves making a difference in leading my school to a greater future, but he hopes that the cause that he cares about will be picked up by others.
I want people to think about better ways to be friends and neighbors to one another, Mortensen said. I want to see people get along, at work and at play, and not just in our school. I want it to spread, until it becomes a good disease. I want it to be contagious.
By seeing whats beyond their schools and their parents, we can make the world a little bit bigger to these kids, Whitten said. Id say the Arlington School District has really been pioneering with the Respect program.