By Rebecca LaFlure
Killeen Daily Herald
Earnest Wilkerson, a former Killeen councilman and prominent black community leader, inspired fourth-graders at Memorial Christian Academy Friday to obtain success through their DNA – discipline, nature and attitude.
Wilkerson was the guest speaker at the class's black history celebration, marking the end of a monthlong reflection about African-American milestones from the abolition of slavery to Martin Luther King Jr.'s march on Washington.
He told the students to get involved in the political process as well as maintain a focus for the future, high moral character and positive outlook on life.
"Black History Month means a lot to me because there were a lot of people who paved the way with blood, sweat and tears before I ever came on the scene," he said. "I just hope to do a little bit of work for these generations to come and make this world a better place."
Wilkerson served on the Killeen City Council from 2002 to 2007, and became one of the council's youngest members at age 27.
The former councilman gave each student a miniature American flag and a bag of flower seeds, encouraging the students to plant their own flower gardens.
"In the city of Killeen, we really want to make a green city," he said. "We want a place where you can see beautiful trees and flowers when you walk down the street."
Rosalyn Barnes, a fourth-grade teacher, said she invited Wilkerson to participate in the event to motivate the students and educate them about what they can achieve.
After the talk, the children dressed as their favorite African-American figures and ate a soul food lunch.
Fourth-grader Briana Barnes went as Ruby Bridges – the first black student to attend a formerly all-white school.
Briana said she "learned a lot of stuff" from Wilkerson's speech and was especially amazed by his frequent travels around the nation and abroad. "He inspired me to step out and be what I want to be," she said.
Jonathan Dalcourt, also a fourth-grader, said he was also motivated by Wilkerson's message.
"I learned that everyone can help with the community and with our government," Jonathan said. "He showed me that I have a chance to make a difference."
Memorial Christian Academy wasn't the only local private school to celebrate the end of Black History Month Friday.
Jackie Johnson said her group of 3-year-olds at Little Lambs Learning Academy came to school dressed as their favorite black inventor.
The children, with the help of their parents, presented decorated posters describing their chosen inventor, she said.
Contact Rebecca LaFlure at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7475.