Watershed Students Spend Martin Luther King Day at Bates College
For the past 12 years, Watershed School has chosen to honor the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., not by taking the day off from school, but instead by learning more about his life's work and the civil rights challenges facing contemporary society. On January 18, Watershed students traveled to Bates College to hear a keynote address and to join Bates students and faculty in a series of workshops, which this year focused primarily on the theme of mass incarceration. This year’s featured speaker, Dr. William Jelani Cobb, is an author, a staff writer at The New Yorker, and an associate professor of history as well as the director of the Africana Studies Institute at the University of Connecticut. Senator Angus King, who participated in the 1963 March on Washington and heard Dr. King deliver his “I Have a Dream” speech, helped to introduce Dr. Cobb.
Watershed believes that active acknowledgment of Martin Luther King Day honors Dr. King’s legacy appropriately by encouraging informed debate and vigilance about inequality in all categories. According to Will Galloway, Watershed’s Head of School, “The learning happens on many levels for all who attend, from experiencing what it is like to interact with college students on campus, to joining a seminar discussion and ultimately sharing in the realization that we are all in this together.”
Watershed’s students report that participation in the Bates workshops broadens their knowledge base academically and culturally. As freshman, Alex Facq, put it, “The program is important because it allows us to see how we can make a change for the better. I really enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about the current social justice systems of the world.” Sophomore, Jeb Smereck, added, “I was especially impressed by the seminar presented by the College Guild, an organization that helps prison inmates receive an education.” Senior, Leslie Ryan, observed, “This year the focus seemed to be more on the workshop-style program rather than a lecture, which is heaven for any Watershed student. I got to listen, participate, learn, and laugh all in one day.”
“These kinds of experiences remind us of the larger community of which we are a part, and demonstrate how Watershed fulfills the concept of a ‘small school with a big experience’", said Galloway.
The students also reflected on the legacy of Dr. King, which is “so extraordinary”, in Facq’s view, because “it shows how one man can rally a nation around one banner in the cause of liberty for all”. Smereck echoed those sentiments, noting Dr. King’s emphasis on peaceful protests and his ability to “unify people of different races”. Rounding out these remarks, Ryan stated, “Martin Luther King, Jr.'s actions were the epitome of civil disobedience. He knew what was right and fought using his mind, body, and soul to achieve that. His words and actions encourage the people of my generation to continue that fight.”