The resounding theme of Friday’s assembly was embrace what makes you different and use it to do good.
In a video that aired at Moorestown High School’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. assembly, MHS students and teachers held up cue cards declaring their religions, ethnicities and sexual orientations. Then, one-by-one, these students and teachers filed onto the auditorium’s stage, and as John Lennon voice softly sang “Imagine all the people living life in peace” in the background, each person was met with thunderous applause for proudly sharing parts of their identity.
The resounding theme of the recent assembly was embrace what makes you different and use it to do good. Ashrit Verma, junior class officer, opened the assembly by discussing the importance of service.
“The truth is we cannot help everyone, but everyone can help someone,” Verma said.
He encouraged his fellow students to chase their dreams, and in doing so, to change the status quo.
Tommy Londres, senior class president, said Martin Luther King Jr. day serves as a reminder that everyone is born to create change, and the student body continues to demonstrate that fact. Last year, MHS’ student body logged approximately 35,000 service hours, and on Thursday, Jan. 17, students packed 600 sandwiches for Cathedral Kitchen in Camden.
“For over 100 years, Moorestown High School has prided itself on its ability to create change,” Londres said. “Our service extends well beyond the borders of our town and even our country.”
Londres discussed MHS’ ongoing partnership with Mercy High School. For the past three years, MHS has repeatedly held school-wide charity projects to benefit the high school located in Malawi, Africa. He said this year, they will hold another fundraiser for Mercy High School. During the week of Jan. 21, students could purchase apparel with the proceeds benefiting the students of Mercy High School.
Guest speaker Jael Chambers, associate regional director at Young Life, discussed the importance of creating “places and spaces” for people to express their racial and gender identities.
Chambers described his own childhood. Growing up in Compton, Calif., Chambers became accustomed to the constant sounds of gunshots and sirens. He said his environment limited him — constantly telling him what he could and could not do if he wanted to remain safe.
It was only after he received a bike one Christmas, and he and his brother rode out of Compton that he realized there were places that weren’t constantly filled with the sounds of gunshots and sirens.
“There was a point when I realized my environment was not normal,” Chambers said. “I always thought that everyone grew up the same way I did. I really believed that.”
He said that was his first taste of a “psychologically safe” space where he didn’t always have to be fearful. Chambers said he spent much of his adolescence not showing emotion despite facing turmoil in his personal and family life because his environment taught him that as a young, African American man he couldn’t show emotion. Looking back, he wishes he’d had a space where he felt comfortable opening up.
“You have an opportunity to impact the world,” Chambers said to the Moorestown students. “You have an opportunity to create the spaces and places that were not being built for you the correct way, but now, you can go into places and say, ‘I’m going to make them the right place.’”
Chambers encouraged everyone in attendance to start making a change in small ways. He stressed students should give their peers opportunities to speak and ask questions without judgment and to reach out to other students who they may not know by name.
Isabel Arvelo, senior class officer, closed the assembly by encouraging students to embody the ideals of Martin Luther King Jr.
“How can you stand up to injustice and do what is right?” Arvelo said. “Let us honor his legacy and make the sentiments expressed in today’s presentation our daily reality. I encourage you all to go out, pursue your dreams and pay it forward.”