Middle school students study lesser-known MLK speech

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IECN photo courtesy CJUSD: Students follow along in Jordan Valles’ class. Pictured on left is 8th grader Keiyhah Taylor, who said, “(The speech) really connected with my life. I’ve been treated badly before, (the speech) inspired me to keep going and never give up.”
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Students in Ruth O. Harris Middle School social studies classes spent time last week examining Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life, legacy, and connection to their own lives as they read and studied a lesser-known speech he gave to junior high school students 50 years ago, titled “What Is Your Life’s Blueprint?”

Seventh grade teacher Maurice Sievers, who holds Dr. King as one of heroes, came up with the idea to have students study the speech after Interim Principal Brian Pope asked teachers to come up with a meaningful lesson centered on Dr. King.

In the speech, delivered to students at Barratt Jr. High School in Philadelphia in 1967, “Dr. King talks about overcoming hardship. I know a lot of my students feel pain,” Sievers said.

Sievers said sentiments shared by Dr. King to do your best, whatever path you choose in life, and to have a commitment to take proactive steps to make the world a better place resonate with students.

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“I want them to think about how it applies to their life,” added 8th grade teacher Jordan Valles. “His words are timeless. Everything he said hits home with me.”

Students were silent Friday as they listened to recitations of the poem and a video showing Dr. King delivering the speech. Most said they had heard of Dr. King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, but had never heard this one. His words clearly impacted them:

“Don’t allow anybody to make you feel that you’re nobody,” Dr. King said. “Always feel that you count. Always feel that you have worth, and always feel that your life has ultimate significance.”

“Life for none of us has been a crystal stair, but we must keep moving,” he said. If you can’t fly, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl, but by all means, keep moving.”

IECN photo courtesy CJUSD: Teacher Maurice Sievers came up with the idea to teach this speech.

“It really connected with my life, stated 8th grader Keiyhea Taylor of the speech. “I’ve been treated badly before. It (the speech) inspired me to keep going and never give up.”

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