The spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. lives on in Wareham

Jan 20, 2020

The spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was alive and well at the Wareham Boys and Girls Club on Jan. 20 with heart-felt speeches, fresh food, and a select group of young people who embody the principles of empathy, courage, and leadership.

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Breakfast celebrates the legacy of the civil rights icon, and recognizes Wareham students who carry on his legacy today. This year, well over 100 people attended the 11th annual celebration. 

Kenny Fontes, the Boys and Girls Club of Greater New Bedford - Wareham Unit Director, kicked off the celebration by noting the importance of the event, and the growth of the Wareham Boys and Girls Club. 

“It’s one of the things that keeps the club going,” he said. He added that last summer the club had 181 members. 

After the Pledge of Allegiance, and National Anthem, Pastor Gerald Fernandes Jr. took to the podium to reflect on the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.  

In reference to the historic “I Have a Dream” speech, the pastor said that King’s dream of social justice, and racial equality “was in harmony with God’s dream.”

After guests were served a breakfast of eggs, bacon, and home fries made by Kev’s Kitchen, this year’s winners of the MLK Youth Spirit Award were acknowledged for their actions and character.  

Quirino doCanto was chosen as Wareham High School’s recipient based on his achievements in both academics and athletics. He has taken honors and advanced placement courses, and is a captain on the hockey team. Docanto was also acknowledged for continuing to carry himself with poise and dignity, despite being discriminated against on the hockey rink last year, when an opposing player used a racial slur against him. 

Desmond Nascimento was recognized by Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical School for his efforts to feed the homeless, and collect toys for those in need. He is also a basketball captain and student tour guide. 

Bishop Stang High School recognized Aaron James as “an incredibly kind hearted young man” who displays a genuine care for helping others. James has participated in the March for Life, and Gifts to Give programs. 

The Wareham Cooperative Alternative PASS night school program acknowledged Mariah Conteio as “a young mother who is committed to completing her education for herself and her young daughter.” 

Wareham Middle School recognized Emma McWilliams for her work ethic and leadership qualities.

The John W. Decas Elementary School acknowledged Gerard Gibbs, who was noted for his willingness to help others. Each morning, Gibbs can be seen helping younger students off of the bus. 

The Minot Forest Elementary School recognized Jordyn Elwood, who successfully created and coordinated a hat and glove drive by herself last year.

The Gleason Family YMCA honored William Cobb for his willingness to help others, and dedication to self-improvement and growth. 

The Boys and Girls Club of Wareham recognized 8-year-old Jeighon Bicar and 10-year-old Deandra Westberg. Bicar participates in arts and crafts and athletic activities at the club, and aspires to be a police officer. Westberg participates in art and dance programs at the club, and is known for volunteering to help others with their homework. 

This year’s keynote speaker, Darcy Fernandes, reflected on her experiences growing up in Wareham, as well as her career in education and dedication to helping minority and impoverished students.  

Fernandes said that while she was growing up, there were no role models within her school that looked like her, with the exception of the “hardworking Cape Verdean mothers” in the school’s kitchen. She also mentioned a time when she was standing in line for a head lice inspection, and someone told her “you’re dirty and filthy just like your peers.” 

Fernandes said that a world where people make these types of comments is “not the world in which we want to subscribe to,” and that “all of our kids deserve to go to school and feel like they are needed and wanted.”

Fernandes is now the Superintendent of the Athol-Royalston Regional School District. She has also worked in the Wareham, Randolph, Brockton, and New Bedford School systems. 

Throughout her career she has been committed to promoting equity for disadvantaged students, and is one of the few superintendents of color in the State of Massachusetts. 

In referencing the importance of Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy, Fernandes stressed the importance of adhering to “the higher road” and said that “steady, loving confrontation” is key to achieving progress. 

Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater New Bedford, Wareham, Robert Mendes said that he was happy with this year’s event, and that attendance has doubled or even tripled since it first began. According to Fontes, the club has already started planning for next year’s celebration.