This MLK Day, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy is alive and well in southeastern Connecticut. His message is living on through New London county students who receive scholarships in his name.
“The youth are our future and the youth are going to lead us to tomorrow," said Birse Timmons, who serves as president of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Trust Fund. "Continuing his dream of equality in education.”
The scholarship trust fund helps students of color in New London county gain an education in Dr. King's name. The fund was founded in 1968. Since then, 180 students have received scholarships.
"The good work of Dr. King is touching all of our lives in a positive way," said James Mitchell, past president of the fund and current trustee.
This year, the fund was able to award 16 seniors with $20,000 each.
Fatimah Mansour, a senior at Fitch High School in Groton, was one of the recipients.
"You have to do what you believe is right no matter what other people are telling you," said Mansour, who said that she was honored to have been selected for the scholarship. "Let me be like Martin Luther King. I want to peacefully protest and stand up for what I think is right in the same way that he did.”
Ledyard High School had two students receive the scholarship: Sarah Morales and Mason Bickham.
“He always thought about what he could do, not what people could do for him," said Morales. "Dr. King was very selfless. He was always looking out for the common good and he really spearheaded this movement so that he could bring people together.”
Bickham and Morales are both members of Ledyard's chamber choir. In honor of MLK Day, the choir recorded the civil rights anthem, "We Shall Overcome." The school posted the video online with a link for people to donate to the scholarship trust fund.
“I feel like these scholarships are here so that we remember him in a much greater light than just the history books," said Bickham, who added that he will work to honor Dr. King through his actions. "I am going to keep moving forward with my education, keep moving forward to become a child therapist, keep moving forward to help those kids.”
The scholarship trust fund is hoping that, with each scholarship, students of color feel empowered to take one step closer to achieving King's dream.
“We have a long way to go, but we have the foundation in our youth to get there," said Timmons. "And we will get there."