By Chris Fish
BREVARD -- Brevard County residents gathered to celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr. on Tuesday, Jan. 14, at Florida Institute of Technology.
Stevie Pursell, vice president of the office of alumni affairs at Florida Tech, said that the celebration is a way to honor the Rev. King and those who continue to carry out his legacy.
"The event not only (recognized) Martin Luther King Jr., but it also (honored) leaders in our community, who are dedicated to carrying out his legacy," Ms. Pursell said.
The ceremony included a presentation of the Rev. King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech by orator Leonard Ross, as well as live musical entertainment from the Florida Tech choir.
Along with the honoring of the Rev. King, the night featured the presentation of the "Julius Montgomery Award" to Rockledge councilman the Honorable Dick Blake, while the "Dr. Harvey L. Riley Bridge Builder Award" was presented to Thomas Cole for his community activism and improvement.
Mr. Cole, who has 17 years of experience in education, is a Cocoa resident, who opened the Emma Jewel Charter Academy at the Monroe Center of Historic Monroe High School in August 2013.
While growing up, Mr. Cole's family did not have a lot of money. However, the sense of community that they established instilled within him a commitment toward hard work. He developed a very close relationship with his grandmother Emma Jewel Cole, who always stressed to him the importance of education. When Mr. Cole decided to write an application for a charter school, he honored his grandmother by naming the school after her.
Julius Montgomery was one of Florida Tech's First African-American students, and an award is presented in his honor at the ceremony every year.
The evening also featured notable speakers, including keynote speaker Jarvis Wash, founder and senior pastor of the R.E.A.L. Church in Melbourne.
As a community activist, Mr. Wash has formed partnerships with local physicians and HIV and AIDS testing centers to host numerous events to raise awareness.