ALTON — Three organizations joined forces Monday to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King.
The Madison County graduate chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha, along with the Simmons Hanly Conroy law firm and the Alton Housing Authority, combined efforts to hold an event for middle and high school students to keep King’s dream alive.
Simmons Hanly Conroy attorney and Alpha Kappa Alpha member Jennifer Hightower was the chief organizer and co-coordinator for the event, which welcomed more than 60 students to the Simmons auditorium in Alton. The program was designed to engage the students in interactive sessions developed to highlight King’s continued dream of equality for all of mankind.
The group split into teams and played trivia about King’s life to earn gems, discussed following their dreams and wrote them on clouds that will be on display. They became symbolic kings and queens not only to spread the message of equality, but to be an example to others.
“The purpose today is to reach out to young men and women to keep the legacy of Dr. King in their minds,” Hightower said. “Teaching these students about his life and keeping his message in their memory will help them see themselves and others as an equal human being. To wear the crowns and earn gems, that will remind them that they are kings and queens of Dr. Martin Luther King’s dreams.”
In attendance was Rena Cheeseboro, the Alpha Kappa Alpha president of the Upsilon Phi Omega chapter of Edwardsville. She welcomed and addressed the students as they entered the Simmons auditorium. Her message was about life’s blueprint.
“Your life’s blueprint is the impact you make in your lifetime,” Cheeseboro said. “Your own dignity, your worth and not allowing anyone to make you feel uncounted. Dr. King spoke of your life’s blueprint and your basic principle of determination. Whatever you choose to do with your life, do it while striving for excellence.”
Lisa Brown of the Alton Housing Authority was a co-coordinator of the event. She was thrilled to see the children speak openly of their dreams and the goals they had set for themselves. Brown also shared her opinion on what she thought Dr. King would think of the world today.
“I think he’d be pleased, but he would feel there is still work to do,” Brown said. “There have been many improvements, but acceptance and equality has no bounds. Not just the differences between black and white or Mexican, but differences and distances in the equality in men and women that we still encounter today.”
The event organizers said it was important for the children to write their dreams, goals and aspirations on clouds to share with the community. The clouds will be on display in local businesses, such as AdVantage News, and also in the community centers at the Alton Housing Authority.
“It’s one thing to think about a dream quietly to yourself,” Brown said. “It’s another thing to write it down, put it in print, to see it. To put your dreams in writing is the first step toward them. The most important thing is to find out what it takes to reach your dreams and to take those steps.”
Simmons Hanly Conroy Law firm provided lunch in partnership with Donna Humphrey, the owner of the Subway franchise restaurant on Broadway in Alton. Sandwiches, chips and drinks were provided for each student in a box-style lunch. The children ate their lunch while talking about the dreams they wrote on their clouds.
“I want to be a lawyer or maybe serve in the military,” said Arriana of Alton.
“I want to be a player in the NBA and beat LeBron James in a dunk contest,” said Taron, age 10.
“I want to learn how to play football,” said Jayson of Alton.
Several students wanted to attend college to study law, join a branch of military or even become a marine engineer. They know that, thanks to the message spread by King more than 45 years ago, they can be whatever they want to be.