First-grade students reflect on MLK's impact as 'helper'

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NORTH PLATTE, Neb.-- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is celebrated as a civil-rights leader, fighting for justice for all; but, who is he in the eyes of a first-grade student?

Kids in Audri Pelton-Johnson's classroom at McDaid Elementary School say that Dr. King was a "helper" and a friend to everybody. They say that they want to showcase these traits in the own lives.

One student wants to share her pencils at school and another says that she can assist people reaching for something on a high shelf.

"If someone couldn't reach something, I could grab it for them," Hope Dodson, student, said. "[Dr. King] was a nice person because he tried to help a bunch of people."

Student Elise Eickhoff has another way that she can lend a hand.

"If people are alone, go and try to see if you can play with them or something," Eickhoff said.

Pelton-Johnson hopes her students realize that Dr. King was a man with goals and a drive to reach them.

"He set goals and he didn't give up on them just because times were tough," Pelton-Johnson said. "If [my students] see something that's wrong, they can take action [like Dr. King] and they can do that peacefully in a way that is respectful and really change the world around them."

Pelton-Johnson wants her students to, not only be intelligent, but to also have something more.

"We need to do more than just educate our children," she said. "We need to make sure we have intelligence packed with character. I think that's what we try to do when we teach our children about what's happened in the past and how people have impacted the future through peacefulness, through prayer, and through taking action."

For Pelton-Johnson, the week-long study in her classroom about Dr. King is about far more than just history.

"It's all of our civic duties to teach our children about the people in the past who have struggled who have seen an injustice, or something wrong, and went ahead and took action peacefully."

Students will use technology, reading activities, and a packet of material to learn about Dr. King's life and impact during the week of Jan. 15.