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Strength of Unity Shines Bright at Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Community Breakfast

January, 2020
  • Sharon Henderson delivers a forceful message of inclusion at the MLK Community Breakfast.
    Sharon Henderson delivers a forceful message of inclusion at the MLK Community Breakfast.
  • Lt. Governor Karyn Polito commends President Pedraja for his leadership at the MLK Community Breakfast.
    Lt. Governor Karyn Polito commends President Pedraja for his leadership during her opening remarks at the MLK Community Breakfast.
  • Congressman Jim McGovern offers his greetings at the 35th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Breakfast.
    Congressman Jim McGovern offers his greetings at the 35th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Breakfast.
  • Motivational music was prevelant at the MLK Community Breakfast held at QCC.
    Motivational music was prevelant at the MLK Community Breakfast held at QCC.
  • QCC's Athletic Center was packed full for the 35th Annual MLK Community Breakfast.
    QCC's Athletic Center was packed full for the 35th Annual MLK Community Breakfast.
  • QCC President Dr. Luis Pedraja gives a powerful speech at the MLK Community Breakfast.
    QCC President Dr. Luis Pedraja gives a powerful speech at the MLK Community Breakfast.
  • The audience enjoys the soulful music from the Knights of Zion Men's Choir.
    The audience enjoys the soulful music from the Knights of Zion Men's Choir.
  • New children’s books for grades K-3 related to Dr. King, or ones that had a social justice theme were collected.
    New children’s books for grades K-3 related to Dr. King, or ones that had a social justice theme, were collected to be distributed to Worcester schools.

On a frigid January 20th morning, Quinsigamond Community College’s Athletic Center was filled to capacity with feelings of warmth and hope, as the College once again hosted the 35th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Breakfast. Co-chaired this year by Phil Niddrie and Nellie P. Toney, the Worcester County MLK Community Breakfast Committee puts together this breakfast each year to honor the birth of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

This year’s community breakfast theme, “More Than a Day Off,” highlighted the powerful and soulful music of the New England Gospel Choir, under the direction of Director Eric Edmonds, as well as the Knights of Zion Men’s Choir and special solo performances by Sharon Henderson, marketing director for the YMCA of Central Massachusetts; saxophonist Noah Allen, accompanied by guitarist David Allen of the Journey Community Church; and Bennet Ebinezer from the Pakachoag Music School.  City Commissioner of Health and Human services, Dr. Matilde Castiel, opened the event with her own personal story of immigration from Cuba in the early '60s as a young child. She said the annual breakfast is held to honor the ideals of Dr. King and noted the vast representation of religious, business and community disciplines throughout Central Massachusetts that come together each year at this event.

Federal, state and local officials in attendance included: Congressman Jim McGovern, Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, City Manager Edward Augustus Jr., Senator Harriette Chandler, Representative James O’Day, Sheriff Lew Evangelidis, City Councilor Matthew Wally, City Councilor Candy F. Mero-Carlson, City Councilor George Russell, Worcester School Committee Member John Monfredo, Councilor-at-Large Donna Colorio, Councilor-at-Large Khrystian King and Worcester District Attorney Joseph Early Jr.

QCC President Dr. Luis Pedraja gave an impassioned speech in his greetings that addressed the issues going on in our nation and asked how we, as a country, will address what has been happening in our country to the generations of the future.

“I, for one, hope we can say we took a stand, that we did not stay silent, that we made a difference and helped bend the moral arc of the universe a little more toward justice,” President Pedraja said. “Our classrooms are filled with a rainbow of humanity striving for a better future. As educators we must honor the trust that students have placed in us and provide them with the tools to build a better future. I believe that through education we can lift the veil of lies, ignorance and fear that has descended upon us and upon our country.”

In his greetings, Congressman McGovern thanked the QCC community, adding, “I also want to thank him (President Pedraja) for his leadership on so many important issues in the City. We are proud of him. “

Lt. Governor Polito also acknowledged President Pedraja in her remarks.

“President Pedraja thank you for your leadership and what you do at this institution, which is an integral part of the success story that Worcester is experiencing,” she said.

In discussing the motivation for the annual event, Congressman McGovern talked about Dr. King’s vision for meeting hatred, oppression and injustice with love.

“I believe in the goodness of the people in this room and I believe in the goodness of the American people, and I believe by working together we will move this country closer to the dreams, hopes and aspirations of the man we are honoring here today,” he said.

This year the MLK Community Breakfast Committee partnered with the United Way of Central Massachusetts, WamsWorks (Worcester Area Mission Society) and the United Congregational Church, to collect new children’s books for grades K-3 related to Dr. King, or books that had a social justice theme.  All books collected will be distributed to select Worcester schools. Those in attendance were invited to assist in assembling early literacy kits for young Worcester students at the conclusion of the breakfast.

Additionally, as is tradition at the breakfast, the winners of the MLK scholarships, essay and art contests were announced. They included:

$1,000 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarships recipients:

Krystle Bedrick of Quinsigamond Community College, Amyah Chagnon-Verdieu of UMass Lowell, Olivia Curnen of the College of the Holy Cross, Chrinovain Kankonde of Clark University, Starr Kyenkyenhene of UMass Boston, Justine Palencia of Bentley University, Ricardo Ponce of Boston College, and Elsi Tutu of UMass Amherst.

Recipient of the $2,000 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship:

 Gynesis Vance of the College of the Holy Cross.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. essay winners are: Samara V. Masiki, a seventh grader at St. Peter Central Catholic High School; Sophia Wildes, a seventh grader at Our Lady of the Valley Regional School, Uxbridge; Siobhan Twohig, an eighth grader at Our Lady of the Valley; and Ryan Mechery, a ninth grader at Holy Name High School.

Winners of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. art contest were students from All Saints Academy, Webster, under the direction of art teacher Beth Crowley.

Fourth grade students winners: Meghan Baca, Max Boulmetis, Joe Chahine, Aiden Collins, Alex Correa, Kendyl Fales, Kamryn Fasshauer, James Ferguson, George-Ann Gajewski, Joey Gajewski, Emma Grochowski, Tim Gardner, Patrick Hylka, Dylan Kelly, Kaitlyn McQuiston, Callum Park, Alissa Perron, Tristan Pico, Camden Rockwood, Ariella Roure, Caitlyn Timlege, and Danielle Vigeant.

Fifth grade students: Haleigh Creighton, Sam Guay, Bobby Hasting, Sophie Kann, Emily Kelly, Jackson Meehan, Mayli Pedersen, Bronwyn Petkus, Alli Santora, and Liam Simao.

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