Despite rescheduling, annual Legacy of a Dream is a success

Photo by Chris Sykes
Dianne Atwell, second from left, the 2019 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award recipient, stands with, from left, Irvington Board of Education member Jamilah Beasley-McCleod, Dr. Latee Walton-McCleod, the guest speaker at the 34th annual MLK Legacy of a Dream event, and Irvington Democratic Committee Chairwoman Baseemah Beasley on Saturday, Feb. 9, during the event in the Irvington High School auditorium.

IRVINGTON, NJ — At the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Committee’s 34th annual Legacy of a Dream ceremony in the Irvington High School Auditorium on Saturday, Feb. 9, Mayor Tony Vauss congratulated the winners of this year’s essay contest.

“I just want to congratulate all of our students, our scholars, everyone who performed here, our children who do an excellent job each and every year. It’s just an honor and a privilege to be here as mayor of this great township, to show what we can do when we all come together in a good cause.”

“Under the leadership of Dr. Neely Hackett, we implemented the annual essay contest within our curriculum, as we provide many essay questions, and she showcased the great writing going on in the Irvington Public Schools,” said April Vauss, the mayor’s wife, on Saturday, Feb. 9.

The winners of this year’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Essay Contest in the Irvington School District are listed here.

In the third grade, first place goes to Fiora Karol-Ann Alexandre of University Elementary School, second place to Tyler Debrosse of Mt. Vernon School and third place to Socrates Philippe of Chancellor Avenue School.

In the fourth grade, first place goes to Bishop Daniels of Grove Street School, second place to Daniel Onyemakonor of Elementary Middle School and third place to Dorah Deauplan of Chancellor Avenue School.

In the fifth grade, first place goes to Courtney Thomas of Grove Street School, second place to David Menjivar of Thurgood Marshall School and third place to Cecilia Ifezue of University Elementary School.

In the sixth grade, first place goes to Shania Mondesir of Union Avenue School, second place to Siana Cooper of Union Avenue School and third place to Christopher Nelson of Union Avenue School.

In the seventh grade, first place goes to Faedra-Madina Louis of University Middle School and second place to Joy Okaro of Union Avenue School.

In the eighth grade, first place goes to Michael Obiora of University Middle School, second place to Ayana Jordan of University Middle School and third place to Shirley Montalvo of University Middle School.

In the ninth grade, first place goes to Shekinah Glory Peter-Mba and second place to Oluwateniayo Onaiyekan, both of Irvington High School

In the 10th grade, first place goes to Kenyatta Mills, second place to Jahyannah Jean-Baptiste and third place to Esther Oko, all of Irvington High School.

In the 11th grade, first place goes to Eugenia Ampofo, second place to Charles Thelusma and third place to Karen Bonilla, all of Irvington High School.

In the 12th grade, first place goes to DaQwan King, second place to Zion Carter and third place to Cordell Litus, all of Irvington High School.

The event also featured remarks from guest speaker Dr. Latee Walton-McCleod, and the presentation of the 2019 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award to Dianne M. Atwell.

“When we, as a society, fail to provide equal opportunity to all of our children, we waste our most precious resource and squander our future,” said Walton-MCleod on Saturday, Feb. 9. “Equality must be taught, from a young age to college level, to ensure this inherited value is working from the ground up in our society. It can be disheartening, when you consider the inequalities and biases embedded in our culture. I believe that our greatest chance for change is in our children. Children are our future for change and, by building an understanding of equality for all of our children, all of our students, I am placing the seed in these future adults, to understand other people’s need and, hopefully, be open-minded to change.”

This year’s Legacy of a Dream event took place almost three weeks later than past years; had been postponed due to a state of emergency declared Friday, Jan. 18, in anticipation of the blizzard that never materialized.

But Vauss and his son, Anthony, said holding the event during Black History Month seemed appropriate.

Anthony Vauss Jr., an aide to his father, said Saturday, Feb. 9, “It’s even better now, because it’s Black History Month and it’s all about spreading black history. We take it seriously. We’re an all-black administration, an all-black town, all black children here. We got the children in here dancing and it’s a wonderful thing. I definitely appreciate it.”

At the event, the mayor thanked Atwell and her husband for their service to the community. Atwell, whose husband is a judge who has served the community for at least 20 years, said she appreciated receiving the 2019 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award.

“I’d like to thank the MLK Commemorative Committee for this award and trust and believe, I will remember and cherish this for the rest of my life,” said Atwell on Saturday, Feb. 9. “This is only the second time in my life that I’ve ever received an award and somebody got to clap for me. I’ve gotten to clap for my kids going through school, for college, when my husband became a judge. I mean, I’ve been clapping all over the place and, guess what? This time I got the clap. So clap!”

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