RAHWAY, NJ - “You can take away money, you can take away possessions but no one can take away your education.” Strong words from Rahway Superintendent of Schools Dr. Patricia Camp, but they could not echo more genuinely the spirit and wisdom of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, whose memory was celebrated by the Rahway community on the commemoration of his birth January 15.
What could have been just another ‘day off’ for the town’s high school students became an opportunity they eagerly embraced to honor the memory of a man who dedicated his life to peace, understanding, and equality for all.
World Language students and ROTC cadets from Rahway High School joined the many community members and local leaders gathered to celebrate the commemorative event sponsored by the Rahway Branch of the NAACP, organized by branch president Ronald C. McCray and Deborah R. Thomas, MLK chairperson. Senior Marine Instructor Captain Jerry D. Parchman and Master Sergeant Gregory Mintz provided a color guard and a small platoon of cadets in support of the NAACP to walk with the community from the Second Baptist Church to the MLK monument for a formal wreath laying ceremony. Speaking for himself, Master Sergeant Mintz and their cadets, Captain Parchman affirmed that they were “truly proud to be a part of the very symbolic ceremony represented by the march.”
Escorted by the high school’s ROTC cadets, attendees for the event soldiered on to the Rahway Senior Center where they could warm up from the cold and blustery morning with a light lunch followed by moving testimonials by Mr. McCray, Rahway Mayor Ray Giacobbe and Superintendent Dr. Camp attesting to the importance and relevance of Dr. King’s contributions to education and to the civil rights of all individuals. Providing a special note underscoring Dr. King’s vision of unity and mutual understanding, six RHS students gave readings of portions of his famous “I Have A Dream” speech in six different languages: English, French, Creole, Spanish, Portuguese, and Polish.
Senior Olivier Pierre, who delivered his excerpt in Creole, offers, “I was very honored to have been chosen to represent the school, and my country, in such an important national celebration.” He continues, “As I was making my speech, I noticed how many Haitians were in attendance and that shows how diverse Rahway is. This type of event shows each race/ethnicity in Rahway that we KNOW and CARE about them.” Echoing Mr. Pierre’s sentiment was senior Rolvens Destine who, having provided his portion in French, averred, “It was incredible to see our community come together as one to celebrate our diversity.”
As educational leader of the district, Dr. Camp noted that, “Dr. King did fight for equality…with most remembering his fight for racial equality, but he was also very active in gender and educational equality battles as well.” “I am always honored and touched to participate in the MLK Day events which, in Rahway, are celebration, remembrance AND a call to action. This year with so many of our students actively participating, they can look upon their community members as real, relevant, local role models and mentors, with a message of justice and equality resonating with each student.”
Through her continued interest and direct involvement with the students of Rahway, Dr. Camp has become a ‘leader’ in hope to many of them. Rolvens Destine cites, “I believe she’s the future of our education. While others are fighting for changes in our civilization, she’s focusing on the education of every child no matter what cultural background or ethinicity.” Junior Jessmary Lora believes, “She always makes us feel involved and, today, made us appreciate Dr King’s fight for equal rights. Her care for our education is something to admire.” Izabell Wilk attested that, “Her passion for education was evident in her interactive speech which brought everyone to their feet!” Yet, Senior Marine Instructor Captain Parchman sums up his view of the superintendent’s contribution to the district perhaps the most succinctly. “She has the right idea of what she would like to do within the district. She has opened up leadership and her vision to the community, to the parents, and to our students.”
Anyone who had the unique opportunity to share in the day’s events, could by no means deny that the legacy of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King was not only revered but alive and well and living in Rahway, NJ.