Even though today is a school holiday, Renee Taylor will not miss the lessons her father and mother pass on each year.
The words of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. will echo through their Severn home, as a way to preserve the history of blood, sweat and tears it took to force equal rights and social change in the United States.
"Dad has tapes of his speech, and he plays it every year," 9-year-old Renee said.
Her deep brown eyes stare dreamily off as she talks about King. An essay she wrote won first place in an annual contest sponsored by the Annapolis chapter of LINKS, a national service organization of professional women.
"I said that I am doing well in school because he worked to make sure everybody has an equal education," the Jessup Elementary student said of the essay she will be presenting before the annual Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast this morning in Annapolis.
"People like him fought to give us more opportunities."
By winning the essay contest, which featured the theme "What Am I Doing to Keep Dr. King's Dream Alive," Renee earned a $100 cash award, a trophy and a certificate.
"I'm keeping his dream alive by not being prejudiced," Renee wrote. "I choose my friends by who they are on the inside, and not by how they look on the outside. I try every day to be fair and honest with the people around me, because thatis the way I want to be treated. Most of all, I try to be a good student because Dr. King fought so that black children like me can go toschool and have equal education.
"Dr King's dream has been passedon and on for years and is still alive today."
The aspiring lawyer said she was inspired by lessons with teacher Irma Thompson and posters hanging throughout the school.
"We've seen filmstrips of people marching, and it makes me feel proud," she said. "I'm keeping his dream alive through me."
Throughout Anne Arundel County, lessons about King were being incorporated into class assignments and special programs.
At Arundel Junior, the 530 students in grades seven, eight and nine attended two assemblies Friday. Eighth-grader Kristie Shanahan introduced the choir from Cordova High School in Washington. Eighth-grader Philip Hayes delivered King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech, while ninth-grader Brandi McDonald provided background information on the civil rights leader's life.
The program was coordinated by eighth-grade social studies teacher Eretta Morris. The school plans to make it an annual event.
"The lessons were extremely relevantconsidering the war (with Iraq) and him being a man of peace," special education social studies teacher Essie Powell said.
"Each student in the assembly had a chance to participate during a yellow ribbon ceremony for the soldiers. It was a very solemn morning assembly. The war was very much on their minds as they came to school."
Everyday last week, morning announcements at Parole Elementary included facts about King's life and accomplishments. A media center display isavailable for students to borrow reading material and activity bookson his life and the civil rights movement.
Dennis Younger, the school system's executive director of curriculum, said instruction materials on King are available at every school to be used at each grade level. Renee is among those students who say the lessons are valuable.
"It's important to recognize him," she said, "because he's one of the leaders who kept trying so that kids like me could get a good education and have freedom."