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Community hears from the future

By ERICA HALL

The Mirror

The theme of this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. celebration in Federal Way, “Investing in Our Future,” seems bright and optimistic, but it’s also heavy and important.

Most people think carefully about their investments, and worry about them when times get tough. Investment involves risk, and those who’ve worked hard their whole lives for what they have want to invest wisely.

A community is no different.

When asked by Trise Moore, Federal Way Public Schools’ family partnership advocate, what the community could do to invest in their future, a panel of high school students answered the community just has to believe in them.

“Have faith in our generation,” said Brianna Moore, from Todd Beamer High School. “Try not to look at the bad. Try to look at the good that we do.”

Federal Way’s 12th annual community celebration brought dancing, insight and excitement to hundreds of Federal Way residents and city dignitaries who met at Decatur High School for the event.

They gathered “to honor one of our great leaders and to celebrate the great richness and diversity in our community,” Mayor Mike Park said. “It’s a celebration for the bright future of our community –– our youth.”

“In the short time we’ve been a city, we’ve been doing a very excellent job,” said Ron Walker, a member of the city’s Diversity Commission and chairman of the committee that plans the King celebration each year. “It shows how great a little city can be.”

The Ajabu African Dance Ensemble, wearing yellow performed energetic dance numbers to their own drummers. They included a moving interpretive piece set not to music, but to a recording of King’s “Free at last” speech.

New to the celebration this year was Maria Morca and the Dances of Spain, a group of flamenco dancers in vivid, ruffled skirts that twirled, skipped and fanned as they stomped their feet. The dancers were joined by classical flamenco guitarist Joel Kabokov.

Walker read to the audience the names of the 30 poster, poetry and essay contest first, second and third-place winners from Federal Way Public Schools students. More than 300 students entered the contest, and the committee awarded $1,050 in prize money.This year, the event planning committee expanded the community celebration from one day to three in an effort to put into action some of the goals and ideas –– particularly investing in youth and linking communities –– laid out in prior celebrations.

Last Friday, 24 delegates from each of the city’s high schools met in a youth summit to discuss issues important to them, like education and career preparation. Rather than have a keynote speaker Monday, eight of those young participated in a panel to share their thoughts on the subjects.

Many of the teenagers seemed to perceive that adults don’t think much of them, or that there’s a wariness at best. But they encouraged adults to have faith in their abilities to be good citizens. They assured their parents, teachers, future employers and neighbors they’re up for the responsibility.

“Treat us like adults,” said panelist Marco Becerra. “There are differences between the generations, but we are capable of being treated like adults.”

“Stop stereotyping us as kids or as trouble,” panelist Anthony Adams said. “There are kids who are doing their best.”

Also new in this year’s King activities was a community-building project with Habitat for Humanity in Westway, a neighborhood located off 21st Avenue Southwest, to rebuild carports, pick up trash, install appliances and teach children to build toolboxes and birdhouses. It was a successful event, organizers said, and one in which teenagers proved themselves once again.

“Expectations for students are not very high,” said Jarrina Tuiletufuga, one of the members of the youth panel. “If you raise the standard and expect more, we’ll continue to meet that. My generation is capable. We are your future, not just the future. Let’s raise the bar.”

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565, ehall@fedwaymirror.com

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