Local students were encouraged to pursue their dreams while celebrating the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his dream during the Salute to Greatness: Martin Luther King Jr. Dream Keeper Award Ceremony Monday.
The award is given to African-American students in middle school and high school who achieve a 3.0 GPA or higher in the first two grading periods of the school year.
Guest speaker Dr. Martina Harris told students achieving their dreams requires hard work, determination and faith in God.
“Do you all have a dream?” Harris asked the students present.
Many raised their hands.
“I am going to give you some tools to be successful in getting your dream accomplished,” Harris said.
Only through hard work can dreams be taken to the next level, she said.
She emphasized students should always try to do their best at whatever career they pursue.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said if someone truly did a job with greatness, then people would stop and take notice.
Harris said her success as the first ever African-American director of nursing at Chattanooga State Community College began with a dream.
“Years and years and years ago, when I was where you are, I used to envision what I could be,” Harris said. “God had a plan for me a long time ago, and it took me a while to realize where God was taking me.”
Harris encouraged parents, guardians, mentors and school personnel to continue to support the students as they move forward.
“When I look at greatness I look at being supreme. When I look at greatness, I look at being exceptional,” Harris said. “These are all characteristics and traits you represent by being here.”
Students need encouraging voices and should ignore those who say they will never amount to anything, she said.
Harris said there was someone who told her she was never going to succeed. The comment just made her want success even more.
“Never give up, and never lose faith in God, because God is with us. He walks with us, but we have to be obedient to what God has for us,” Harris said.
Harris said achieving greatness is not easy.
“There are so many leaders who have paved the way for us,” Harris said.
The Dream Keeper Award signifies a continuation King’s dream and accomplishments.
“The dream is now in your hands,” the Rev. Aubrey Ector said as the awards were presented.
Master of ceremonies Bill Estes encouraged the students to talk to Ector or his wife about Memphis in 1968 to get a real view and feel for the history surrounding King’s assassination.
“It will make your life much richer, I promise,” Estes said.
The Dream Keeper Award is presented by Bradley County NAACP, 100 Black Men of Bradley County Inc. and the Ministers’ Fellowship of Cleveland-Bradley County.
The award was created as a way to honor the memory of King after local school systems agreed to observe Martin Luther King Jr. day as a holiday.