WILLIAMSTOWN -- Marcella Villada Peacock had never heard of Martin Luther King Jr., until she attended a program at her daughter's first school in the United States.
"I came from Mexico. I didn't know anything about it," she said. "But once I learned about Martin Luther King, I loved him."
When her family moved to Williamstown 19 years ago, she was hoping to see a big celebration honoring the activist on his birthday, but didn't. So she started one at Williamstown Elementary School.
Villada Peacock shared her story at the school on Friday morning, during the now annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration.
Each year, the school's fourth-graders create posters about King's life and work to hang on the school's auditorium walls; fifth-grade students write poetry about him and sixth-graders write essays based on the prompt, "Who is Martin Luther King Jr.?"
Williamstown Principal Joelle Brookner said the students' writing and posters "show a depth of understanding" that the students have gained by putting thought into their projects.
For example, one student's poster detailed how King was inspired by another human rights activist, Mahatma Gandhi.
In her essay, sixth-grader Maya Choste wrote how King demonstrated that, "a person can be powerful without being physically violent."
She gave a modern example of how in school, someone could speak up and intervene when someone is seen being bullied. "Every conflict has a non-violent resolution," Choste wrote.
Choste, along with fifth-grade poetry writer Jayden Johnson, will read their work on Monday as part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day program at Williams College.
Other student poetry readers on Friday included Charlie McWeeny, Clara McWeeny, Alahna David and Alice Glab. Additional sixth-grade essay readers included Julius Munemo, Helen Greenfield and Lucy Shepard.
The elementary schoolers were also treated to performances by Williams College performance groups The Accidentals, an all-female a cappella chorus; Kusika, an African dance and drumming troupe, and Sankofa, the college's step team.
Williams College sophomore Mia L. Knowles also gave a short speech during the event, encouraging the audience to continue to be inspired by King's values and dreams.
"I am Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream just as much as you are," Knowles said. "Today, my dream is that one day you will say that you helped Martin Luther King's dream come true."
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