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At Hartford's Breakthrough Magnet School, Finding Peace In MLK And Meditation

By VANESSA DE LA TORRE

January 18, 2013

HARTFORD Scores of children gathered in their sun-lit school gymnasium Friday for a weekly meeting on character.

The schoolmates were Latino, Asian, black and white, hailing from Hartford and nearby towns.

"I don't know if you all know this," teacher Katie Leonard told them, "but Breakthrough Magnet School is a manifestation of Dr. Martin Luther King's speech. His 'Dream' ... We are living his dream, and peace is created through us."

The 355-student school on Brookfield Street teaches character education every day, so its celebration of King before Monday's federal holiday was meant to be special.

Leonard played a short film on Breakthrough's projector screen.

"Martin said love when others said hate," the narrator proclaimed. "He said peace when others said war."

When the film segued into "I Have A Dream," prekindergarten teacher Jen Zehler began to clap her hands, spurring other Breakthrough educators and students to applaud as King gave words to his vision.

"I have a dream that one day ... little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls."

In small groups, students shared their dreams for Breakthrough and the world "Love," said first-grader Chase Krevalin, 6 then created paper doves to display in the school.

Finally, they all meditated for two minutes. Breakthrough, which teaches up to eighth grade, is the only public school in Connecticut that implements mindfulness-based stress reduction, a form of meditation, in classes each day, said Julie Goldstein, the assistant principal.

Students as young as 3 years old practice "mindfulness" in the morning, before lunch, after recess and whenever needed as a sophisticated form of finding peace, theme coach Maritza Soto-Gomez said.

"In peace. Outward. Start breathing," Gabby Brodeur, 13, an eighth-grader from Newington, said calmly into a microphone Friday as Soto-Gomez whispered instructions.

Serenity music wafted on speakers in the gym. Some children and teachers bowed their heads.

"Now we're trying to find a memory," Gabby said. "A memory that you are thankful for. Think about that person; a person that loves us. Takes care of us. ... Keep a happy thought, and have a wonderful day."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
     
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