(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) The Sixth Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Solutions Summit, held at Wyatt Park Christian Church on Monday, focused on discussions about dreams.
The event kicked off with brunch and guest speakers, Missouri Western State University President Matthew Wilson, and former Leavenworth Mayor Jermain Wilson.
Jermaine Wilson got in trouble with the law at 11 years old.
What you can do
Events are planned throughout this week by MWSU’s Center for Multicultural Education to honor the life and service of Martin Luther King Jr.
Here are some highlights:
- Tuesday, Jan. 21: Missouri Western will have a Photobooth and Martin Luther King Jr. information table.
- Wednesday, Jan. 22: Missouri Western University will host a Martin Luther King Jr. Reception at 6 p.m. with poetry, jazz music, and refreshments. The Center for Multicultural Education will announce the winners of the 2020 MLK Drum Major for Justice Awards.
- Thursday, Jan. 23: “Harriet” a movie based on Harriet Tubman’s life, will be shown at 6 p.m. at the Blum Student Union at Missouri Western University.
- Friday, Jan. 24: Missouri Western University has designated the day as Martin Luther King Jr. Service Day and students are invited to volunteer and help Habitat for Humanity. Transportation is provided by the university, volunteers can meet at the Blum Student Union at 3:30 p.m.
Growing up in what he called, “not the best neighborhood,” some of his friends and family pulled him down the wrong path.
“I had a big brother that was always in trouble and I thought it was cool because he got attention for breaking the law,” Jermaine Wilson said. “I’m let you all kids know, it ain’t cool to break the law.”
He then went from juvenile detention facilities to prison.
“We are all going to make mistakes in our lives but don’t let those mistakes define who you are,” Jermaine Wilson said.
But fortunately, he found his way out. He is now a county commissioner, a former mayor of Leavenworth, a father, and a husband.
Jermaine Wilson shared his story at an MLK Jr. event hosted by MidCity Excellence Monday.
MCE is a 501(c)3 non-profit and it was established to help young people in the St. Joseph area through empowerment and education, according to the organization’s website.
Founder and CEO MCE, Kim Warren, said guest speakers like Jermaine Wilson help teens and children realize that those who “made it” are not just lucky. Instead, she said, they have struggled and with help came out on the other side.
“They need real-life tangible people that refuse to give up,” Warren said. “The most successful people in life are problem-solvers and resilient.”
The summit brought together more than 70 people including city leaders, children, teens, and members of civic and religious organizations.
She added that more often than not, the teens and children she meets through MCE are the ones that are just trying to survive. Warren said the 2020 “Solutions Summit” was about getting people thinking about what is needed to help children push past “survival mode.”
“He could help us prevent kids from dropping out of school and going down the wrong path,” Warren said about Jermaine Wilson’s message.
Warren said children “surviving” need to first see people in their lives who embody a dream embodied.
“Whether that’s a teacher, a doctor, or a Mayor,” Warren said.
Jermaine Wilson said those role models are also a safety net to catch and help people get back on their feet. He said that after his second stint in prison, he realized achieving what he dreamed of his life was going to take good people.
“Immediately I had to surround myself with other people who had a purpose, who had goals,” Jermaine Wilson said
Warren agreed. She said adults need to show children that success takes a village.
“We have people that we keep close to help us when we get down or when we get stuck,” Warren said.
The second speaker, MWSU President Matthew Wilson built on the theme by talking about service and creating opportunities to serve the people around you.
“We need to look at the future and ask what more can we do,” Matthew Wilson said.
He said that question inspired a new program at Missouri Western where students can earn up to three college credits towards their degree for every 40 hours of community service.
Matthew Wilson said he wanted the students who graduate from MWSU to have a strong desire to serve the communities they live in. He said students can put those service credits towards their degree for free and use the volunteer work to beef up their resumes.
Friday, Jan. 24, MWSU students are invited to spend the day with Habitat for Humanity volunteering. The volunteer hours go towards that 40-hour requirement and are part of the university’s week-long plan to honor the life of MLK Jr.
Wilson added the new university program answers the civil rights leader’s question he posed in a 1957 speech in Montgomery, Alabama.
“‘What are you doing for others?’” quoting Martin Luther King Jr, Matthew Wilson said Monday.
One of the children in the crowd at the “Solutions Summit” was Brooklyn Coats-Moppin. She’s a sixth-grader at Mark Twain and a straight-A student. She volunteers as an MCE tutor and dreams of becoming a photographer.
She also had some advice for people who want to know how to help children reach their goals.
“Some kids are stubborn, so you got to have patience and work with them to get them to, like, good places in the future,” Coats-Moppin said.