01-13-12: Meeker student joins district in honoring Martin Luther King, Jr.
01-13-12: Meeker student joins district in honoring Martin Luther King, Jr.

When people talk about heroes, 12-year-old Tyler Hopkins immediately thinks of Martin Luther King, Jr.

“He really inspires me,” said the Meeker Elementary School student. “He’s about equal rights and non-violence.”

It was natural, then, for the sixth grader to choose the slain civil rights leader as the focus of a classroom reading and writing assignment.

His reading teacher, Jill Phipps, shared a story about perseverance last fall and asked students to write a paragraph about someone they know or someone famous who epitomizes that character trait.

Hopkins said he couldn’t wait to go home and write about the historic leader.

“Martin Luther King, Jr. had perseverance because he stuck to what he believed in,” the boy wrote. “Some of his beliefs were non-violence, peaceful protesting, and justice for all. He spoke peacefully to all races. He went to jail repeatedly for what he believed in. Lastly, he died for his people.”

When Phipps read the boy’s writing, she sent him to the office to share his work with Principal Kevin Hampton.

“I wanted the kids to write from the heart, and that’s exactly what he did,” Phipps said. “I was excited he took the assignment so seriously and wrote about it with such sensitivity.”

Hampton, too, was inspired by the sixth grader’s words.

“After I saw the essay, I decided to ask him to coordinate an entire wall display about King’s life in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day,” Hampton said.

Hopkins asked his grandpa to take him to the store so he could buy some red, white, and black poster board for the display background. They also found large black letters to spell out the bold Martin Luther King, Jr. title.

The two sat down at the computer after school to search the Internet for photos and quotes from King’s speeches, which they printed off and posted on the wall.

Hopkins’ essay is tacked side-by-side next to King’s speeches.

The sixth grader enlisted the help of several of his classmates to type King’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech for the center of the display, flanked by numerous photos of the leader.

Meeker Elementary students Alex Murphy, Cyah Dade, Kindal Moeller, Liam Oflaherty, Kristabelle Elamparo, and Ariana Denmark all helped Hopkins with the collage, and all of the school’s sixth graders signed their names to the finished product.

Hopkins’ classroom teacher, Michael Brown, said he was impressed by how much time the student spent on the project.

“Tyler was very excited when presented with this opportunity,” Brown said. “He was dedicated to its completion, putting in a great deal of time outside of school researching and organizing.”

As he stood in front of the finished display, Hopkins said he feels King would be proud of the work.

“I’m so happy I got to do this,” he said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Students and staff throughout the Puyallup School District are honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life this month with school assemblies, classroom projects, and other activities. School assemblies are listed on the district Events Calendar.