MLK Elementary Students Explore ‘Dear Martin’ for Black History Month

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — For Black History Month, eighth-grade students from Martin Luther King Elementary School are working with Mahoning Valley Sojourn to the Past to read and discuss “Dear Martin” by Nic Stone.

“Dear Martin” tells the story of an African-American teen struggling with his identity and issues at school. He tries to work out what he’s experiencing by writing letters to the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Each Thursday and Friday, students discuss what they’ve read and do activities with Sojourn scholars throughout the project. MLK Elementary teachers and administrators believe the book has real-world applications for the students.

“As history teachers, we know that our history has direct correlations to our lives today. But oftentimes, scholars have a disconnect between our past and our present — and bridging that gap is what we strive for,” said Chris Stanley, a ocial studies teacher at MLK. “By implementing the Sojourn group and the reading of ‘Dear Martin,’ scholars will be able to explore how our past affects us today, including the exploration of what it means to be Black in America.

The school’s dean, Daniel Smith, agrees, saying the activity will allow students to discuss a topic that is “important, impactful and often ignored.

“I wanted scholars to read a book where they could see themselves and have a connection to the story,” Smith said. “In addition, the book is very powerful and appropriate for what’s going on in our country. After reading this book, I hope the scholars understand there will be obstacles in life but with determination they can succeed.”

Sojourn is excited to reach the book with the students, said its director, Penny Wells. The project will culminate with the students writing their own “Dear Martin” letter, she said.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.