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Merrillville's STAND hosts workshops commemorating King's life, legacy
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Merrillville's STAND hosts workshops commemorating King's life, legacy

MERRILLVILLE — Andrean High School junior Elizabeth Cornejo thinks it's important to discuss issues like respecting other people's religion, race and gender.

East Chicago Central High School junior Jessica Avina said the world is evolving, and there is more violence today than ever before.

Chesterton High School sophomore Matthew Koutsopanagos said he was able to see what's going on in the world today from other perspectives.

Those three students were among nearly 100 from high schools in Lake and Porter counties who participated in the MLK Youth Workshops presented by the STAND — Socially Together and Naturally Diverse — organization at Merrillville High School on Monday. This is the 10th year the workshops have been held in honor of the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

The workshops, run by the Merrillville High School students, focus on historical, social and political issues. Some of the topics were on violence and discrimination in society.

Laashtiana "Lala" Ivey, a Merrillville High School senior and director of activities for STAND, said the concept of the workshops is that students will be able to relate to other students and present the topics much better than adults.

"We do this every year, because we believe that students can relate to students and get something from these discussions," she said during a break between workshops.

Ivey conducted a session on respecting others' race, religion and gender.

"There is disrespect everywhere," the teen said. "We are all different, and we have to learn to accept our differences. I wanted to create an atmosphere where other students felt comfortable to share their thoughts and feelings. Our goal is to try and reduce the amount of distrust between people. Martin Luther King's message was taught to us from the time we were young.

"Unfortunately, some people have pushed those thoughts away as they have gotten older. It's unfortunate that some people don't relate to Martin Luther King and his teachings."

Cornejo said the discussions have been really good.

"The topics are focusing on the kinds of things people don't like to talk about. I've faced issues," she said.

"I've noticed that when I tell people I'm Hispanic, they sometimes treat me differently. There is so much violence going on in our society today and it's really frustrating. There is such a low value on life. People don't think about their actions."

Koutsopanagos said when he saw that one of the workshops would address discrimination, he knew it would be interesting, and the discussions showed that "young people are more violent now than ever before."

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Southlake County Reporter

Carmen is an award-winning journalist who has worked at The Times newspaper for 20 years. Before that she also had stints at The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., The Post-Tribune and The News Dispatch in Michigan City.

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