By Greg Gelpi
Walking around the gym, Hawthorne Elementary School students took a walk through time and a walk around the world.
Celebrating Cultural Day, each grade studied a culture during the school year and the day was the "culmination" of their studies as students presented booths featuring the various cultures, wore native dress and performed dances, teacher and organizer Brenda Stanford says.
Standing in front of a display entitled "Power of Woman," Kiara Taylor, 11, says she didn't realize all that women had done and accomplished.
"There are a lot of women I had never even heard of," says Taylor, who won the fifth grade "What can I do to keep the dream alive?" writing contest.
Students wrote about how they can live the dream of Martin Luther King Jr. and received certificates signed by his son Martin III as part of the celebration.
Taylor says that the elder King would want her to educate children and stop the violence.
Ricky Fergerson, 11, serves as an anchor on the school's closed-circuit television station, broadcasting live from the event and interviewing guests and his fellow students. For him, the dances, particularly the "Hawthorne Slide," are the best part of the day.
"I just liked how they did it because we never do stuff like that at school," Fergerson says.
Volunteer Kevin Taylor, 50, who describes himself as a child of the civil rights movement, commends the school for its multicultural celebration, but said that he looks forward to the day that such an event doesn't draw news coverage.
"That's when we know we have arrived," he says. "To go from black and white to multicolor is a good thing. Mercy, integration is a good thing."
Growing up as a child, he says that society wasn't diverse.
"It's fantastic for the youth like this to learn at an early age to get along," Kevin Taylor says. "They teach that this country is a melting pot in the history books. Clayton County demonstrated it in Hawthorne Elementary today."
Stanford says that students have been studying and preparing for this throughout the school year.
"I believe we are equal," she says. "Even though we are different on the outside we are all the same. If we work together, then we can get a lot accomplished."
Other first place winners in the writing contest are kindergartner Jennifer Hidrogo, first-grader Zaria Jones, second-grader Kazendi Simon, third-grader Monterio Dison and fourth-grader Elizabeth Phillips.