West Side school stays open to honor MLK

January 17, 2011 4:26:59 PM PST
Many people had Monday in observance of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. But there was no day off for students at one local school.

They observed MLK's birthday by organizing a celebration -- and then heading off to class.

Students at Providence St. Mel school on the city's West Side started their day with singing, a skit about Rosa Parks and reflections from their president, who marched with Dr. King during the civil rights movement.

School president Paul Adams III has always required students to spend the day in school.

"I did it because I knew Dr. King. He was my hero," Adams said. "I thought it didn't make sense that we would take off to celebrate Dr. King, who was an educator. I thought we should be in school and that's a very simple explanation of it."

Damari Croswell is a senior now. He's been making the trek since the first grade. He says he's keenly aware that his school is the only one in the city that's in session on King Day.

"When I was younger, I'd put on my bookbag, put on my coat, walk out the door and I'd be the only kid walking down the street with a bookbag and coat on," said Croswell. "And some of my friends would say, 'Where you going?' And, I'd laugh and say, 'School'."

And, after the program, it is business as usual. In most classes, students spent time learning more about the civil rights leader.

Some fourth graders compared Dr. King with Mahatma Gandhi.

Parents support the effort. Many believe it's one more way for their children to learn American history and live Dr. King's dream.

"Well this is what Dr. King would've wanted. I mean, why would you want to take a day off? You need to get involved, get involved with your community," said Ramonski Luv, V-103 DJ and parent of a first grader.

"What you want to do is at least plant a seed, and that is what the school is doing," said Nona Tibbs-Moore, parent of sophomore. "It's planting a seed for the children at this school as well as the City of Chicago."

"It's important that they're in school learning what happened, because without Dr. King none of us could be doing what we're doing today," said Gerald Cleveland, parent of senior.

A study from the Center for Education Reform in Washington, D.C., recently named Providence St. Mel among the top 12 schools in the country for its academic results and for building a culture of character in its students.