King's legacy felt by E.C. kids

January 15, 2001|By KELLY RAUSCH and ANTHONY LONGORIA, Staff Writers

Max Madrigal puts his hand to his chin and looks into the distance thoughtfully.

It's hard for anyone to sum up the effect Martin Luther King Jr. had on this country, even for this fifth-grader from Desert Garden Elementary School in El Centro.

"He broke some of the laws by drinking from a white man's fountain. He gave a speech about how it's not what your skin color is, it's who you are," Max finally says.

Max and other fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders from El Centro participated today in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration at the Conrad Harrison Youth Center in El Centro.


The all-day event, sponsored by the Imperial County Office of Education's student well-being and family resources division and AmeriCorps, included presentations about King and sports and games.

"We're celebrating Martin Luther King Day and teaching the children a little bit about Martin Luther King, his ideas, what his dream was," said Antonio Gomez, ICOE prevention specialist.

About 200 children were expected to participate in today's event.

"We always do this event every year to teach kids about Martin Luther King Jr.," said AmeriCorps member Vanessa Gonzalez.

"We want to show them what he did and have fun at the same time," Gonzalez said.

In her second year with AmeriCorps, Gonzalez said the organization hopes and expects this year's celebration to be bigger and better than last.

Said Michelle Aguilar, another member of AmeriCorps: "Martin Luther King tried to make things better for the world and it's a good idea to teach the kids to celebrate a holiday that means something."

Though Harding Elementary fifth-grader Dusty McCarley is happy to have the day off from school, she's eager to learn about King.

"We watched a movie about him last week (in school)," Dusty said.

Dusty sees the differences King made all around her.

"(Racism) is not the way it was back then. He made a difference," Dusty said.

Recalled 11-year-old Vivian Mariscala: "He said ‘Who cares if we're black or white? We should be together and not fighting.' "

Continuing King's social service work, event organizers required donations of canned food as an entry fee, Gomez said.

"This way we're helping others and doing community service," Gomez said as he collected the non-perishable items from incoming children this morning.

"(This event) is an opportunity for the children to learn a little bit more about Martin Luther King," said Gomez. "It also gives them the opportunity to interact with other schools … and hopefully other ethnicities and other cultures."

ICOE and AmeriCorps staged a similar event today at Calexico's Neighborhood House for students there.

Staff Writer Kelly Rausch can be reached at 337-3442. Staff Writer Anthony Longoria can be reached at 337-3452.

Imperial Valley Press Online Articles