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August 10, 2010 > Fremont students intern at MLK Center

Fremont students intern at MLK Center

By Jerry Ting
Photos By courtesy of Sonia Krishna

Reading Dr. King's actual letters, researching notable figures of the Civil Rights movement, and being mentored closely by renowned Stanford professor of American history, Dr. Clayborne Carson, were only a few activities of five lucky Mission San Jose High School (MSJH) students who interned at Stanford University's Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Center.

Internships, from July 7 to July 16, were proposed by MSJH students to their Ethnic Studies teacher Risha Krishna, after listening to Dr. Carson guest speak at Mission San Jose High School earlier this year. Krishna then pitched the idea to Carson, who she met two years ago on a teacher's trip to visit historical Civil Rights locations in the South.

An application process was devised which required a written application and interview with a panel of teachers? only five spots were available for the internship. Of the many applicants, Alex Qin, Courtney Tam, Denise Wong, Nikhil Krishna, and Shravya Sanagala were chosen to represent MSJH.

In preparation for the internship, the students spent weeks from May through June working with teachers to learn about the Civil Rights Movement. The MSJH community was overwhelming with its support for the project; teachers Bill Jeffers, Barbara Carroll, Karl Hui, Patricia Weed-Wolnick, and Risha Krishna volunteered time to mentor. Lunch hours were spent learning about major historical events: Sit-Ins, the Little Rock 9, and Freedom Summer. Time was spent watching historical films and documentaries.

"The kids were sitting there, talking about freedom rights. I couldn't believe the quality of the questions that the kids were asking. They were thinking on a deeper level about this kind of content, asking questions of social justice and fairness," said Krishna.

When the students arrived at Stanford's Martin Luther King Jr. Center, they had already spent hours upon hours learning about the Civil Rights Movement. Dr. Carson states, "They [the interns] were splendid in every way. It was a pleasure working with them and their teachers."

The quality and amount of resources available was overwhelming: 40,000 Dr. King-related documents including manuscripts, letters, and photos were available, with Dr. Carson himself being selected as the editor of Dr. King's letters in his later years by Mrs. Coretta Scott King. Each student intern received a copy of Civil Rights Chronicle: The African American Struggle for Freedom, the textbook written by Dr. Carson and his colleagues. A significant individual from the Civil Rights Movement was chosen by each intern to research in detail in addition to studying the movement as a whole.

At the conclusion of their internship, the students presented a slideshow to Dr. Carson, discussing what they had learned. In turn, Dr. Carson brought the students to an all-day workshop titled "Where Do We Go From Here?" after Dr. King's famous speech. At the seminar, students met key historical figures like Dorothy Cotton, Clarence Jones, and Vincent Harding.

All in all, the students had a fascinating experience learning about the Civil Rights Movement, studying primary sources, and understanding the role that teenagers played in history. "Their [civil rights activists'] work amazes me, especially how they were courageous enough to fight for something they believed was right, and how their powerful acts motivated others to do the same. I feel like if it wasn't for this movement, we would not be living the life of racial unity we see today," summed up student participant Denise Wong.

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