Teaching legacy: Finlandia students discuss impact of Martin Luther King Jr. with students at Barkell

Katrice Perkins/Daily Mining Gazette Finlandia assistant librarian Airen Campbell-Olszewski introduces herself to a second-grade classroom at Barkell Elementary school in Hancock, before reading a book about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

HANCOCK — Finlandia students, staff and faculty celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day by going to Barkell Elementary in Hancock for some special reading sessions.

The purpose of the readings was to have volunteers go into different classrooms to read books to help educate students on the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Finlandia assistant librarian Airen Campbell-Olszewski has done the readings in the past and jumped at the idea when asked to be a site reader.

“They needed some help and I was willing to step in,” said Campbell-Olszewski.

Campbell-Olszewski read to several classes over the course of the day and thought it was a great time.

“It was delightful,” said Campbell-Olszewski. “It brightened my life.”

She said the students responded really well. Other readers discussed how King’s assassination took over the discussion and how hard it was to change the focus of the students.

“I think we should get multiple of the ‘My Brother Martin’ books because it doesn’t mention the assassin,” said William Thompson, a ceramics major at Finlandia.

If the book read mentioned the death, it would take over the younger kids’ discussion and made it hard to bring the discussion back to a celebration of King’s life.

Thompson’s experience was a little different. He said the fifth graders weren’t as interactive.

“They were very familiar with MLK so I didn’t get a lot of questions but it was nice to see that they were all familiar with the story,” said Thompson.

The other readers said their students also had a lot of questions about the assassination. The main question on everyone’s mind was why King was killed.

Thompson thought that wasn’t a bad thing.

“That’s good. Don’t ever understand how [someone could do something so bad],” said Thompson when answering the question..

The questions were hard to explain to the younger students. Teachers had to explain why the killing was a bad thing.

“It helped having a couple of different people together,” said Campbell-Olszewski. “The questions were able to come about easier for the kids by the different approaches each person had.”

The reading day was a good experience for the volunteers and they usually come back.

“I like it because we just have to show up,” said Zoe Lincoln, a member of TRIO, a student service at Finlandia for students who are the first of their family to go to college. “Other volunteering you have to plan things yourself.”

“I did reading at Houghton schools last year and thought it was a lot of fun so I chose to do it again,” said Thompson.