By Christy Strawser
DETROIT (CBS Detroit) Allen Park High School is one of only four schools in Wayne County that will remain open Monday, Jan. 21 — Martin Luther King Jr. Day — but it won’t be business as usual.
Using the circle as a symbol of interconnectedness, the John Mayer song “Waiting for the World to Change,” as inspiration and “We shall overcome,” as the call to action — the high school has a full day of engagement activities planned to urge students to become the change they want to see in the world.
“We’ve taken it to a whole new level, I’m very proud, it’s going to be a terrific celebration,” Principal Janet Wasko said. “I’m so glad we’re in session to do these educational programs.”
Allen Park High School has a largely homogeneous student population, but that doesn’t mean they should take the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day lightly, staff and students agreed. So they decided to stay open on the holiday and immerse students in activities to honor the legacy of this great man and to commit to taking personal responsibility for making a positive change.
The day will begin with a lesson in every classroom throughout the school using the John Mayer song, “Waiting on the World to Change” to focus on the power of each individual to affect change in his/her world.
After doing a class brainstorming activity on what the school, class, individual, community and nation needs to overcome, each student will be given a student-designed business card. On it, everyone will write a personal pledge answering “I will overcome” which they will sign, date and carry in their wallet as a reminder to be an instrument of change.
The Visual Arts Department has also designed a mural of circles as a visual reminder of theme for MLK day. The circle is a universal symbol used in all cultures to focus on our interconnectedness and encourage students to recognize that what affects one of us affects all of us. During the lunch period, students will be invited to sign this mural as further commitment to their personal goal and to changing the world. They will then receive a handmade gift of a circle key-chain or circle ring to wear as a reminder that change in the world can begin with one person.
In the afternoon, all students will participate in an afternoon program in the Allen Park Center for the Arts, with internationally renowned and self-described activist, scholar, professor and “intellectual with a millennial perspective,” Dr. Ravi K. Perry as the keynote speaker. Dr. Perry is an Assistant Professor of Political Science and Stennis Scholar for Municipal Governance at Mississippi State University.
“It’s so exciting that we even got him, he looks to be young, an activist, he will be a wonderful role model for our students,” the principal said.
In addition to the keynote speaker, there will be student and professional performances, featuring the Allen Park High School choir, jazz band and professional operatic and gospel artist, Jennifer Jones. Jennifer Jones has a Bachelor’s degree in vocal performance from Calvin College and a Master of vocal performance from Jacobs School of Music from Indiana University.
There will be two assemblies in order to accommodate the entire student body. The first begins at 12:45 p.m. and the second begins at 1:45 p.m. The assemblies will be in the Allen Park Center for the Arts at 19001 Champaign Road, Allen Park, which is attached to the high school.
“We have done an assembly before, but this is the most comprehensive one we’ve planned, I have a very dedicated team of teachers who are passionate about this issue,” Wasko said.
She added: “We want our students to see the relevance of the holiday and how it related to them and find out what they can do, for greater awareness, to make a change, to create a world that’s more harmonious. We need to personalize it because so often MLK Jr. and all he represented, it needs to be meaningful for him.”
She added that she hasn’t heard any complaints about students not having the day off.
“I don’t hear that much at all,” Wasko said. “I think there’s so much anticipation for the day, we’ve been going on the PA every day, with a different voice saying, ‘This is (so and so)” and in 2013 I will overcome’ and then they share what they’re going to overcome. We’ve had both staff and students, and it’s really piquing (interest) We’ve set the tone. They’re all excited.”