HARTFORD, Conn — At Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Hartford, seventh-grade students are working to live up to every bit of the school's name through a new program initiative. And it all started with the question, "What would you like to change?"
Through the halls of the social justice-themed middle school, students know the weight that comes with the MLK name.
"It makes me feel like I'm a part of Dr. King's Dream," said Sequienia Rose, a seventh-grader.
Rose and her classmate, Alyssa Lara, said it's a dream driven by change. They explained that the seventh-grade class saw a need and created "Martin's Market."
"It's important because it lets people in the community know that they can get things that they need from," explained Lara.
Martin's Market provides food, health and hygiene items, and winter accessories accessible to MLK students and families at the school free of charge.
The program is sponsored in part by the organization Advocacy to Legacy, Inc. Executive Director Violette Haldane said she asked students how they wanted to make a change, and from there, the idea blossomed.
"Our goal is to let the students understand and know that no matter their age, you can make a difference," said Haldane.
While the market was created as part of advocacy work with the organization, Haldane said they're committed to the project and are doing the necessary legwork to make it happen.
"They will be manning the store, managing it, and they will learn a lot of skills," said Haldane.
Students are also learning that it will serve an even greater need than they expected through the project.
"We are realizing more and more that this is a need, especially right now during this pandemic," explained Dr. Doreen Crawford, Principal of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School. "A lot of our parents do need help and they do need support, so this also helps out with the parents at home."
The pantry is stocked through donations; however, there are concerns about keeping up with the demand. Martin's Market is currently in a small portable pantry, and Dr. Crawford explained they want to expand to the larger pantry area in the school, but it will take a community effort to keep it stocked.
Despite the challenges, seventh-graders remind everyone of the goal and the dream of Dr. King. That out of the mountain of despair, there's a stone of hope.
"Know within themselves that they can make a change within the community," Rose. "It doesn't matter how little or how big the idea is. They can change the future."
The program is sponsored in part by Advocacy to Legacy, Inc, West Indian Foundation, City of Hartford Unity Summer Grant, The Village for Families & Children, and Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School.
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