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Newport elementary students pair up for peace

Working with push pins to outline peace doves on paper are (from left) Dane Halvorson, Thorunton Young, Evan Kolodzie and Devon Lanz. Bulletin photo by Judy Spooner

If Martin Luther King Jr. could have been in the room, he would have seen that a part of his "I have a dream" speech has come true. He dreamed of a day when children of all races could be together.

At Newport Elementary School last week, students in Heather Trok's second-grade classroom hosted students from Ann Madden's fifth-grade class to work on an art project together. When the younger students pair up with the older ones, they're blind to racial differences. They only see their school buddies.

The buddy project has a long history at the school, according to Trok. This year's fifth-graders remember when they were second-graders participating in the buddy get-togethers that happen about once a month.

Last fall, they made scarecrows to celebrate the fall season and, in December, they made gingerbread houses for the holidays.

To remember King last week, each student got a sheet of construction paper overlaid with a picture of a peace dove, symbolizing what the civil rights leader stood for.

Using push pins, they punched small holes to outline the picture and the word "peace" underneath it.

With the sound of hundreds of punches in the background, students such as second-grader Kylee Kiritschenko talked about why they celebrate King's birthday. "He wanted black and white people to get along," she said.

"Black people don't have to sit in back of the bus," said Naomi Tekese, who was lying on the floor doing her picture alongside her fifth-grade buddy, Andrea Bigginton. They are buddies throughout the school year.

Martin Luther King Jr. didn't want anyone to be afraid, Bigginton said.

When the pictures were finished, fifth-graders lined up to go back to their room. On the way some of them stopped by the school's front door to put up their pictures so the other children in the school could see their "peace" message.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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