Published April 14, 2011
Springfield, Ohio –Hundreds of miles from the hallowed steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., the campus of Wittenberg University provided a willing forum for Martin Luther King Jr.’s message from nearly half a century before: “I Have a Dream.” On Jan. 29, students from Lincoln Elementary and Hayward Middle in the Springfield City School District joined forces with Wittenberg students to pay tribute to the slain civil rights leader by developing the goals to which the younger students can aspire.
Despite new social conditions and generations, the message was the same as it was in King’s day: we need to create our dreams and believe that we can make them happen. Wittenberg students were paired with students from the neighboring schools to create dream catchers that were intended to ask the participating youths “what year will you graduate from college?”
Emily Bermes, class of 2014 from Northbrook, Ill., heard the question asked and answered numerous times and found the experience very rewarding for the elementary and middle school students and her Wittenberg peers. “It’s great for the kids to meet and talk to college students, because college is such a huge goal for all of them,” she said.
Evan Cameron, class of 2014 from Dover, Ohio, was equally moved by the event.
“I spent the entire day with a fourth grader. As the day went on he transformed from a quiet, timid kid into someone who was running and laughing and who walked away from the experience with a real sense of what dreams can do,” Cameron said. “I love the idea of having kids realize the date of college graduation, to let them know that we believe in them. I loved the day…it was my favorite service day of the year.”
The event was co-sponsored by the Springfield Promise Neighborhood, an organization focused on ensuring that children are school-ready by kindergarten and college/work ready by high school graduation. Professor of Education Robert Welker has been instrumental in spearheading efforts for the Springfield Promise Neighborhood while consistently involving Wittenberg students.
Discussion of the younger students’ college aspirations will continue April 16 during Wittenberg’s 10th annual Celebrate Service event. Lincoln Elementary students will collaborate with Wittenberg students to create a wall of dreams that will be placed in the school’s community garden. While none of the elementary and middle school students were around to hear King’s words as he spoke in August 1963, the continued guidance of positive role models makes it possible to believe that they will realize his dreams – and theirs.
Written By: Chris Gipson ’11
Photo By: Erin Pence