WMU News

MLK remembered with weeklong slate of events

Jan. 9, 2002

KALAMAZOO -- The woman who helped revolutionize education in Chicago and around the nation will headline Western Michigan University's weeklong celebration honoring the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

A number of free public events and activities have been scheduled at WMU the week of Jan. 21-25 to commemorate King's birthday. For the third year, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, this year slated for Monday, Jan. 21, will be an official University holiday.

Activist educator Marva Collins will be the keynote speaker at the University's annual MLK Convocation at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22, in Miller Auditorium. In addition to Collins' address, the convocation will include performances by the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Choir and a Pakistani dance troupe; a dramatic reading by Dr. Von Washington, professor of theatre at WMU; and remarks from President Elson S. Floyd.

Marva Collins has been hailed as one of the most influential educators in American history. After 14 years teaching in Chicago's public school system and feeling dissatisfied with the education her own children were receiving in prestigious private schools, she founded the Westside Preparatory School in 1975. Collins' success there with children labeled as "unteachable" has prompted educators throughout the United States to rethink and retool their teaching strategies. In 1996, she returned to the Chicago Public Schools where she implemented her teaching strategies at two of the district's worst schools, which showed remarkable improvement within months of her arrival. Today, Collins is a sought-after trainer and motivational speaker.

With the theme "Building Bridges in a Complex World," this year's WMU observance features several other major events, including:

A commemorative march at 10 a.m. Monday, Jan. 21, from the Bernhard Center to MLK Memorial Park on North Rose Street, sponsored by the WMU student chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Panel discussion, "Who Should Profit From MLK's Image?" showing of a recent "60 Minutes" segment followed by a panel discussion featuring WMU faculty experts in communication, law and black studies, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22, in room 157-58 of the Bernhard Center.

MLK Discovery Day, a free fair for children in kindergarten through sixth grade, from 3:30 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 23, at the indoor tennis courts in the Student Recreation Center. A permission slip signed by a parent or guardian is required for each participating child.

Alumni forum, "Looking Back, Moving Forward," a luncheon forum featuring WMU alumni discussing how MLK's assassination and the changing social climate of the era impacted the campus community, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22, in room 210 of the Bernhard Center. Space is limited and reservations are required, call (269) 387-8775.

Panel discussion, "Building Bridges Between the Present and the Past: The Underground Railroad and Ramptown Project," a moderated panel discussion about the Vandalia, Mich., project, from 2 to 4 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 24, in room 2303 of Sangren Hall.

Many other events are scheduled, including activities in the campus residence halls. A complete list of activities is being distributed to the University community this week and is available on the Web at <www.wmich.edu/mlkday> or by calling (269) 387-2141.

WMU's observance of King's birthday is being coordinated by the Martin Luther King Jr. Committee through the Lewis Walker Institute for Race and Ethnic Relations. Gwen Athene Tarbox, assistant professor English, is chairperson of the committee, which includes students and faculty and staff members.

Media contact: Jessica English, 269 387-8400, jessica.english@wmich.edu

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Marva N. Collins

A graduate of Clark College, Marva N. Collins began her career as a teacher. After 14 years in Chicago's public school system and dissatisfied with the quality of education her own children were receiving in prestigious private schools, in 1975 she founded the Westside Preparatory School in Garfield Park, a Chicago inner-city area. During the first year, Collins took in boys and girls labeled as learning disabled, problem children and even borderline retarded. At the end of that year, every child scored at least five grades higher, proving that previous labels had been misguided.

After Charles Murray's controversial 1995 book "The Bell Curve," a television news show investigated the lives of Westside Preparatory School's first 33 students. Statistically, one of the students should have been shot, two in jail and five on welfare. This was not the case. All 33 students, now adults, were leading successful lives with a majority choosing teaching as a profession.

Collins' success with students labeled as "unteachable" led to profiles in Time and Newsweek magazines and television appearances on "60 Minutes" and "Good Morning America." Her life was the basis for a CBS drama, "The Marva Collins Story," and Ronald Reagan offered her the post of Secretary of Education, but she declined in order to stay with her school.

In late 1996, Collins returned to the Chicago Public Schools to help three of the district's 109 schools placed on probation. She asked for the three lowest achieving schools, in the worst areas and with the lowest parental involvement. Two of the schools chose to implement the Marva Collins Methodology. Just four months after Collins began working with the schools, the two schools that had implemented her methods improved their scores on the Iowa Standardized Test by 85 percent, while the other school improved by only 10 percent.

Collins' vision, dedication and achievements have earned her recognition from around the globe. A sought-after speaker whose schedule runs two to three years ahead, Collins has trained more than 100,000 teachers, principals and administrators in the Marva Collins Methodology. She is the recipient of the prestigious Jefferson Award for the Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged. In 1982, she was honored with Beverly Sills, Nancy Kissinger and Barbara Walters as one of the Legendary Women of the World.2002 Calendar of Events.

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