Hundreds of students honored at 34th annual MLK Youth Recognition Breakfast

A photo of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
National Archives and Records Administration
1983: The U.S. Senate votes 78-22 to approve a bill establishing a national holiday in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. The legislation, already approved two months earlier in the House of Representatives by a 338-90 vote, would be signed into law by President Ronald Reagan on Nov. 2, 1983.

More than 900 people attended the 34th annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Youth Recognition Breakfast, honoring the civil rights activist and recognizing more than 200 students in Dane County.

At 18 years old, Demetrius Barnes is planning for his future.

“After high school, I’m going to college,” the Memorial High School senior said. “I want to own my own construction business.”

He’s one of four outstanding seniors who received the Betty Franklin-Hammonds Memorial Scholarship Sunday morning. But this wasn’t the first time Barnes was recognized at the breakfast. He’s been awarded the MLK Outstanding Young Person Award twice.

“It feels amazing. I just had a conversation with my pop saying that every year you’ve got to improve, so I feel like this year, I improved,” Barnes said.

That’s the hope this year’s keynote speaker had for students at the award ceremony. Ari Davis, 20, received the scholarship a few years ago and returned to encourage his peers to keep dreaming.

“My hope for all the youth and the next generation is that we continue to better ourselves, we continue to push to be better people in and out, day in and day out,” Davis said.

On this Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend, these students are reminded to not just dream, but to keep moving forward.

“We believe that this is what Martin Luther King would want us to do, to help these young people aspire, but also help them accomplish their dreams,” Ruben Anthony, Jr., president and CEO of Urban League of Greater Madison, said.