Appleton students focus on community during MLK holiday

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APPLETON, Wis. (WBAY) - State and federal offices were closed Monday as the country paused to honor the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior. And for the first time, students in the Appleton School District were also off for the holiday.

Image License Photo: Nobel Foundation/MGNONLINE

Class was not in session for kids in the Appleton Area School District on Monday, but the halls at East High School were still buzzing.

District Superintendent Judy Basemen was joined by Appleton Mayor Tim Hanna as well as other community leaders, students and parents for a march to kickoff the first of an annual MLK Community Day of Service.

According to Karen Nelson, the city of Appleton's Diversity & Inclusion Coordinator, "We are so pleased to have this kind of turnout on such a frigid, minus degree day, that it's incredible that the entire community is here and all colors of the rainbow, all genders, all faiths, all religions. It's just so beautiful."

The event comes after the school board voted unanimously to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a district holiday -- a request that came from students who wanted to honor Dr. King and the way he lived.

School board member Alvin Dupree says, "This day could inadvertently be thought of as a black holiday; Martin Luther King brought unity across boundaries."

A short program in the school's auditorium which featured student performances and speeches not only celebrated the life of Dr. King but also taught an important lesson outside of the classroom.

"I was excited that they had off of school today, so I wanted to come to this community supported event, and that was really important that they learn why they have off of school today and learn about Martin Luther King and what our community has to offer," says Appleton parent Amanda Smith.

The more than 50 non-profit organization on hand, showcasing what they do for the community, inspired many people into service.

Appleton West High School senior Travis Thor adds, "What I learned today is that I don't really volunteer for the hours, I don't volunteer so I can put this on a college resume, I volunteer because I love to do it. I volunteer because I want to do it."

A testament to not only the Appleton community but also its mindset.

"Bringing in the community together is what it's about. Really, I'm proud, I'm proud right now," adds Richmond Elementary School Principal Jack Knaack.

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