MLK Jr. inspires PDS to seek “a better place”

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter,” said Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The concept of helping members of a community is one that was important to King. His major focus was thinking about those whose lives were worse than others. America watched as he put an entire community of the racially oppressed on his back like an ox, and carried them towards equality. It is in his memory, and that of his actions, that many students across the country spend time helping their communities around Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

From mandatory service hours to student-run projects, PDS is constantly buzzing with those helping and thinking about the less fortunate. Although community is a theme that is emphasized throughout the school year at PDS, this year, as Martin Luther King Jr. Day approached, PDS decided to concentrate further on this all-important theme.

In the week leading up to this day, advisee groups met with a particular King-inspired goal in mind. During these meetings, groups focused on what they could do to help the community. Each group came up with multiple ideas designed to beneft those not only in the PDS or greater Princeton community, but around the world. Ideas ranged from tutoring younger students, to collecting items for U.S. troops. The hope is that the advisee groups will plan, implement, and work on the different projects they had brainstormed at these meetings.

In keeping with King’s principles of equality and an end to discrimination, PDS put on a special play, titled “A Better Place,” the Friday before Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Performing Arts Department Chair Deb Sugarman wrote the beginning and end of the play, and selected Upper School students to fll in the middle of the show with their own experiences, stories, and feelings. During the assembly, these students, many of whom were new to the stage, delivered poignant monologues with refreshing bursts of humor in between. “The stories were captivating, and I loved how while they were acting, it was so real to them,” said junior Suma Kanuri.

The play was followed by a question-and-answer session in which students and faculty in the audience asked both the actors and Ms. Sugarman about the making of the play and what it meant to the actors. “The main thing that the play was trying to accomplish was to present the idea of equal value in every human being, and the notion that we as a society today have a long way to go before we see equal value of life without being too ‘preachy’ or aggressive in our performance,” said actor and senior Amir Melvin. “I think the play was very successful as it touched the heart of a lot people.”

Following the theme of the day of improving our community for all who live in it, after the play, students met in groups within their grades to discuss possible community service projects. Community Service Committee grade representatives led this conversation, resulting in many ideas such as making food for local soup kitchens and volunteering at a nearby animal shelter. Later in the year, there will be an Upper School-wide day devoted to community service during which many of these suggestions will be carried out.

As the day came to a close, students and faculty alike were left to refect on the idea of community and how to contribute to it positively. From King’s still-echoing cries of equality for all, to Princeton Day School’s efforts at creating an inclusive environment committed to social justice and service, the special programming helped students to not only commemorate King but also to continue his legacy.

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