Students representing the Gary Community School Corporation participated in the MLK Ecumenical Service on Saturday, April 2, 2022 at New Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church. Now in its 52nd year, the service was designed to commemorate the life and legacy of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Normally held in January on or around the King holiday, the global pandemic caused the cancellation of the event in 2021 and its postponement to April this year.
“The planning committee was disappointed when the service had to be canceled in 2021,” said Committee Chair Pastor Dwight Gardner of Trinity Baptist Church. “When COVID-19 re-emerged at the first of this year, we had to postpone it but were determined to host it this year. The committee decided to identify a date in April near the anniversary date of King’s assassination, and we moved forward with what turned out to be an extremely successful program.”
The Ecumenical Service features an annual essay contest for middle and high school students in Northwest Indiana. This year, all of the winning essays contest from the Gary Community School Corporation. Students wrote on the topic taken from an excerpt of Dr. Martin Luther King’s speeches, “As long as the mind is enslaved, the body can never be free.”
The prizes and monetary awards were presented to the scholars at the event.
The high school winners, all from West Side Leadership Academy, are as follows:
1st Place – Angela Adams
2nd Place – Kenneth Sandidge
3rd Place – Samuel Coleman
The middle school winners hailed from Gary Middle School and are as follows:
1st Place – Santiago Collins (6th grade)
2nd Place – Ka’Monie Vortice (6th grade)
3rd Place- Delaun Williams (6th grade)
The West Side Leadership Academy ROTC posted and retired the colors, and the WSLA choir performed several selections.
“We were simply ecstatic to see the level of participation by our students,” said Paige McNulty, Manager of the Gary Community School Corporation. “Congratulations to winners, their teachers and parents on a job well done.”
The keynote speaker, Dr. Montia Gardner, a graduate of Gary Lew Wallace High School, spoke on the theme for the occasion, “Where do we go from here?”
Dr. Gardner delivered a heart-felt message that captivated the audience, giving reverence to many trailblazers from Gary, IN. As she honed in on the theme, Dr. Gardner spoke about more work needing to be done in uniting as a community in the name of education and economic growth.
Gardner also shared her personal experience with the MLK Ecumenical service while growing up in Gary. She was an essay contest winner, a choir member, and avid attendee with her grandfather, siblings and cousins.
“It feels good that this experience has come full circle with me now serving as keynote speaker,” said an emotional Gardner. “I know that my grandfather would be extremely proud.”
To view a recording of the Ecumenical service, visit the Gary Community School Corporation Facebook page.