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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Students continue the dream

Dawn Grey leads the Longfellow School Choir through

Celine Lewis beamed a smile at her parents Friday as she sang “I Have a Dream” during a Longfellow Elementary School assembly Friday. The Martin Luther King musical production was one of many King observations planned throughout the week by area schools.

The songs by the Longfellow choir put some of King’s famous speeches to music. Some students also read off historical facts, like, “Dr. Martin Luther King was a man of peace in a world of raging hate.”

A dozen parents showed up to watch their children perform.

Eleven-year-old Lewis asked both her parents to be there this time. She pestered her dad especially because he missed the Veterans Day concert.

“And he’s a veteran,” she said.

The songs had special meaning to Lewis’ father, who sat through two consecutive performances at her request.

“They love it when you participate,” Robert Lewis said. “Listening to these speeches of what other people have gone through before us – it makes you feel lucky.”

In fact, Lewis feels lucky about many things.

The Lewis family lost many of their belongings in a Dec. 30 house fire. They all got out safely after someone driving by at 2 a.m. stopped to wake them. Their daughter’s red choir shirt, which she wears for performances, was destroyed.

“She was worried about her concert shirt with this concert coming up,” Lewis said.

Once school resumed, the school and choir teacher, Dawn Gray, found another shirt for Celine. The staff’s been known to buy coats for students in cold months.

During her performance, the girl would make her parents laugh by waving frantically and dancing in the back row of the choir. A number of choir members said the songs gave them chills.

“We shall overcome,” said one song.

Corian Clary, 12, talked a mile a minute about how great and supportive her teacher is, and how much fun it is singing, and how her friend’s nickname is funny, and. …

Clearly the choir harnesses the kind of energy that can only be generated by elementary school students.

Gray, the director, who’s also an administrative intern on her way to becoming a principal, said music is one of those things that draws kids to school.

“It means the world to some of them,” Gray said. “They enjoy making music together.”

Longfellow is Spokane Public Schools’ largest Title 1 elementary school with almost 600 students. Title 1 schools qualify for low-income federal funding and are held to higher performance standards due to the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Almost 80 percent of students receive free or reduced meals at the school. The district average is just under 50 percent.

“We are all sisters and brothers no matter the difference of our colors,” said a student at a microphone between songs.

Gray ended both performances with what she called a fun song about Rosa Parks’ refusal in the segregated South to move to the rear of the bus with other African American passengers. The students and crowd clapped to the gospel-style song that went, “Come on up to the front of the bus, I’ll be riding up there.”