Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. tributes held across Chicago

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Ladeja Hopson spent Martin Luther King Day helping others.

"I like coming here, being helpful," Hopson, 13, said Monday. She and other volunteers with the James R. Jordan Boys and Girls Club traveled from the city's West Side to the North Shore to participate in the 2015 Martin Luther King Day of Service in Highland Park.

The event honors the slain Civil Rights leader's legacy by heeding his call to service. Retired social studies teacher Cheryl Levi started the event in 2009 as a way to challenge her students' energy in a positive direction.

"Everybody can serve and reach out and help others," Levi said. "To me, that's what life is about."

More than 1,300 people participated in the event by volunteering with a local food bank, homeless shelter and veterans group.

"I think it's important to hold these traditions that we have because if we don't uphold them they'll eventually be lost," Andrew Rawlins, who is from Denver, Colorado, said.

"We've had people coming from far south, far north. It's just a wonderful opportunity," Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering said.

The Highland Park event was one of many honoring MLK on his birthday, which was designated a national day of service in 1994.

VIDEO: Rainbow PUSH MLK Day breakfast

On Monday morning, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition held its annual PUSH Excel Scholarship Breakfast at the Hyatt Regency. The theme for the 25th anniversary was "King's Unfinished Agenda."

ABC7's Hosea Sanders emceed the event, where children spoke and professionals were honored for working to empower youth.

"I was born in Mississippi when it was totally segregated, had the ability to go to Morehouse College on a scholarship that changed my life. So, I feel very privileged to be able to help other young people have those kind of opportunities," Dr. Walter Massey, president of the school of the Art Institute of Chicago, said.

Community leaders and elected officials attended the breakfast.

"It starts with making sure that you study hard and we don't make an unfair economic burden on parents providing for their kids to go to college," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who founded PUSH Excel in 1975, spoke of Civil Rights challenges that persist.

"When the president gives his State of the Union Address he needs to acknowledge the fact that poverty is growing. That black America is downwardly mobile," Jackson said.

One of the city's biggest MLK Day events is held at the DuSable Museum. This year, community leaders and citizens will read Civil Rights passages under the theme "Reflecting on the Dream."

Other events honoring Dr. King include the Chicago Sinfonietta annual tribute concert Monday night and activities at the Brookfield Zoo from 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday.

Actor Harry Lennix was a guest speaker for a Mass led by Father Michael Pfleger at Saint Sabina in the city's South Side in honor of Dr. King Sunday morning.

At DePaul University, students, staff and faculty came together for the school's third annual worship celebration. Sunday night's event featured gospel music and a church sermon in the style and tradition of Dr. King.

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