Five of nine awards given during a recent contest honoring the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. were given to students of Canyon Ridge High School in Hesperia.

In art category, David Brown received a second place award, and Ivan Ontiveros, who has returned to Hesperia High School, took third.

In the poetry division, Jamison Kelly received first place, and Roni Hanke, a former Canyon Ridge student who is now at Shadow Ridge Independent Study, took second place.

Canyon Ridge student Riyahna Outlaw Weathersby won first place in the essay division.

"I think this is really important," said Canyon Ridge English teacher Wendy Ball. "Kids need to be recognized for stuff. We try to have our kids enter contests whenever they can."

Ball began preparing her students for the MLK competition last November, the same month that the class was studying Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.

The late Martin Luther King Jr., whose 80th birthday was celebrated on Jan. 15, was an American civil rights leader whose is best known for his "I Have A Dream" speech and leading the 1963 March on Washington.

This year, the annual Martin Luther King Jr. day was celebrated on Jan. 19.

Martin Luther King, Jr. : Remembering the Past, Observing the Present, Pressing toward the Future

By RIYAHNA OUTLAW WEATHERSBY

Martin Luther King, Jr. was an amazing black Civil Rights activist, motivational speaker, and most of all an amazing American man. With his help we went from segregation to an African American president. With all of the progress we've made over the past 40 years, we can only press for more in the future.

In remembering the past, on February 14, 1818, a baby boy was born into slavery. His name was Frederick Douglass. Frederick Douglass taught himself to read and write. Later he was being beaten nearly everyday for six months, and eventually escaped slavery. Finally, he became an advisor to President Abraham Lincoln.

In the 1940s whites and blacks couldn't drink from the same water fountains, let alone go to the same schools. Martin Luther King, Jr. was not afraid to inform folks about where we came from and where we needed to go. He is the one who set up the boycott after Rosa Parks was arrested on December first. Being the former Secretary to the President of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Rosa Parks was well known by people in Montgomery. Thanks to Dr. King, on the morning of December 5th, African American residents in Montgomery, Alabama, refused to use the buses. Shortly after Dr. King and others community leaders formed an organization called the Montgomery Improvement Association, and elected Dr. King to be president.

Other things we remember from the past are Plessy vs. Ferguson where the African Americans were separate but equal, but in reality blacks weren't equal. Fifty-eight years later, Brown vs. Board of Education said, "No! African Americans are not equal to whites" which sparked the Civil Rights movement in 1954. During the Civil Rights Movement, Governor George Wallace tried and failed to prevent Vivian Malone Jones from enrolling and graduating from the University of Alabama.

Now things are much better. Blacks and whites go to the same schools, churches, hospitals, and we even work together. We have gone from slavery and segregation to having a black president. November 4, 2008, America voted for Barack Obama, a black man, to be president of the United States. Martin Luther King, Jr. had an enormous part in where we are today. His motivational speeches, such as "I have a Dream" touched more than just blacks. It touched whites as well which made America as a whole press for a change.

There is still much work to do. The abolitionist poet James Russell Lowell knew we need to break every chain so we can truly be free. To truly be free means we need to change the minds of the bigoted people in this country. Next, we will have a Mexican president or an Asian president. We as a country, and as a whole, will prosper.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was an amazing black civil rights activist, motivational speaker, and most of all, an inspiration on American culture today. America has been through the turn of slavery, segregation, and now we have a brighter future with a black president.

All we can do now is move forward with hope that everyone will be accepted and prosper someday because as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "We will be judged not by the color of our skin, but by the content of their character."

Jamison Kelly's 1st place poem:

My life is falling away
Everything I've accomplished seems to be falling away
Today's events flashing before my eyes

Numbness came
I still feel the bullet piercing my skin
And the burn of spent flesh

My vision is blurred
All that remains is the ground
That I'm presently crashed against

How long ... how long ago
Had I spoken my cry -
My cry for equality?

Tears stream from my eyes
Blackness all around
Blackness is all that remains

No! I'm fine.
I am not bitter
I am resoundingly hopeful

This is not the end
More people will rise after me
Truly this moment will ring

Equality - they will scream!
Freedom will ring!
I am Martin Luther King!

Now at last my eyes must close
And left alone, I will lie
but before I leave - I see a light
The figure stepped out of the darkness
Dressed in a fine gold robe
He reached out, bronze skin ablaze

I looked up at him
He was smiling
Peace I immediately knew

"Come, Martin," he beckoned
Freedom rings, freedom rings.

Roni Hanke's 2nd place poem:

Within the day of a segregated nation
One voice resounded
Hatred grew like camps of concentration
And upon his dreams, freedom founded

Separate faucets to drink from
When will equality come?
We are taught to taste the living waters of the word
But integration has become absurd

A reformation of non violence
Gradually brings hatred to a silence
We're to be above the level of our oppressor
To keep things not as they were

His words ring within us all
To fight intolerance and meet the call
No men's rights denied
Come against the hopelessness spread worldwide

March down the path he paved for you
Bring liberation through the things you do
Honor a man's memory
The blind eyes will begin to see