CALUMET CITY | Students, teachers, faculty and staff at Thornton Fractional North High School joined hands Thursday and formed a human chain throughout the school's hallways in remembrance of Martin Luther King Jr.
"Hands across T.F. North" is an annual event at the school that began 11 years ago, Principal Dwayne Evans said. This year, a portion of King's "I Have a Dream" speech was played over the loudspeakers, freshman Christa McGee read an original poem and Student Council President Dyese Matthews read a prepared statement.
"Our school is made up of a large population of African-American students, so it's important to the community and to the school that we celebrate Dr. King's birthday," teacher and student council co-sponsor Aaron Altenburg said. "Instead of just saying it's his birthday, we're maybe trying to keep the legacy going, the message of what his teachings was so that students are reminded of it."
"It's in the history books and it's in their classes, but maybe this is just taking another step to show the kids the importance of it all."
Altenburg and Chris Russo organized the event this year.
"The whole idea (of joining hands) is to have that chain linking everyone together, kind of like Dr. King's message in the speech of having all races and having people of all races and backgrounds and ethnicities to come together and be one," Altenburg said.
McGee originally wrote her poem, titled "Is Dr. Martin Luther King's Dream Possible?" to read during church. She brought it to her English teacher Russo for a proofreading and was asked to read it Thursday. McGee said the finishing touches weren't put on the poem until Wednesday.
She'll be reading it at multiple churches and other events this weekend.
"After watching the 'I Have a Dream' speech, it just started coming and I just wrote it down," McGee said. "(The Hands Across T.F. North event) reminds people that they don't always have to be surrounded by hate. There are people out there who try to change the world for the greater good."
Matthews finished the presentation with a final question for students to ponder as they returned to class.
"What are you going to do to ensure the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King lives on?" she said.