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CKJH assembly looks to make MLK holiday a ‘day on’

Central Kitsap Junior High School students showed their support while singer/songwriter LeRoy Bell performed at Friday’s Martin Luther King Jr. assembly.  - Photo by Jesse Beals
Central Kitsap Junior High School students showed their support while singer/songwriter LeRoy Bell performed at Friday’s Martin Luther King Jr. assembly.
— image credit: Photo by Jesse Beals

By PAUL BALCERAK

Staff writer

Central Kitsap Junior High School’s Friday assembly in honor of Martin Luther King Day may have been themed “Dream of Peace,” but students and guest speakers had another challenge for those in attendance: don’t think of the holiday as just another three-day weekend.

“I think — not to be negative — we’ve kind of put it in that category with Presidents Day, Memorial Day (etc.) as a day off rather than a day on,” said Cherry Rachal, guest speaker and part-time Central Kitsap School District employee. “I think it’s important that we understand that all of the freedoms and liberties (people) enjoy today wasn’t always there.”

The assembly was presented by CKJH’s DREAM Club and titled, “Dream of Peace,” after a song by singer/songwriter LeRoy Bell who was part of the famous “Bell and James” songwriting and performing duo.

Bell played a trio of songs at the assembly, which also included performances by CKJH students and an extemporized speech by Rachal about her experience traveling to Washington, D.C. to see King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

CKSD Superintendent Greg Lynch also was in attendance as an observer.

The assembly represented a collective effort by students and staffers at CKJH to promote diversity, but talks with both revealed that not everyone is in agreement on the state of diversity acceptance at the school.

“Most of our school is pretty accepting, despite the mixes of people,” ninth-grader Breaun Dozier said.

Eighth-grader and DREAM Club President Brittney-Jo Rusinski contradicted that view somewhat in her opening remarks to her CKJH classmates. According to an informal school survey cited by Rusinski, 27 percent of CKJH students said they feel unwelcome at the school, while 33 percent admitted they have “rejected people” and 52 percent said “students are quick to judge people.”

CKJH Principal Franklyn MacKenzie was a little disappointed with the high numbers.

“I think there’s still a little work to do (but) I think it’s a positive environment,” he said.

Nevertheless, the assembly met with rousing approval from staff and students alike. Many students hung around afterwards — and after school hours — to get autographs and pictures with Bell and his manager and bassist Terry Morgan.

“It was really nice to see the entire school stand up for LeRoy Bell (at the end of his performance),” Rusinski said.

Dozier even tracked down Rachal for an autograph once the assembly ended.

“It really meant something to me to know someone that was there (at MLK’s speech) that I could talk to about the situation,” Dozier said.

And on the topic of treating the King holiday as more than a three-day weekend, Dozier had a message for his elders: “There’s still kids out there who care about how important a holiday it is.”

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