St. Edward students reflect on MLK’s legacy: ‘Change is going to come from our generation’

Published: Jan. 13, 2023 at 4:46 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - “We must in strength and humility, meet hate with love.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke those words in 1957. Today, his message guides students at St. Edward High School in Lakewood.

Humility is at the core of the school’s nationally recognized Diversity and Inclusion Program, led by Vice President Dr. James Knight and Assistant Director Royal Eddie.

Students and staff are making tremendous strides to make sure everyone is seen, heard and valued.

“A lot of change is going to come from our generation.” — Junior Jayden Williams

Ahead of Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2023, 19 News participated in a candid conversation on humility, diversity and inclusion with juniors and seniors at St. Edward.

“There’s so much contention in the world, so much you versus me. Every conversation needs to be a debate that I win, but it doesn’t have to be that way. It can be a cool exchange of ideas.” — Senior Jaden Stainforth

Dr. Knight, an author and consultant, uses his expertise to create dialogue on difficult topics.

“Race is one of those things that’s so difficult to talk about in our country. People get hesitant, there’s anxiety, people don’t want to say the wrong thing,” Dr. Knight said. “But if we can begin to let people approach this through a lens of humility, everybody comes in from that same perspective, now we can lean in and have some courageous dialogue.”

Saint Edward, an all-boys, private catholic school, is known for its academic and athletic excellence.

Its 970 enrolled students come from all over Northeast Ohio, from a variety of race, economic and religious backgrounds.

“We are very fortunate at a place with so many different backgrounds and different ideas. And when we go into the real world, we need to be cognizant that everyone might not have that same privilege,” Senior Michael Kilbane said.

Conversations at St. Ed’s are turning to action, and turning to change.

“There’s more work to do, the work is never finished.” — Dr. James Knight, vice president of the Diversity and Inclusion Program

As the work continues for Dr. Knight and his students, he says he can tell change is happening, in little ways and big ones.

The students said progress starts at the top, when the young look to upperclassmen as role models and champions of diversity.

“I think one of the biggest things too is action and solidarity. You can say you stand with somebody through words, but if you don’t really show support, it doesn’t mean anything,” — Senior Will Gonzalez

The students said they hope Dr. King would support the work and the conversations happening at St. Edward if he was still alive today.

“I think he would be proud of, like the change from when he was alive, and I feel like he’d be really proud of the brotherhood, specifically here at St. Ed’s,” Williams said.

The conversation comes to a close with Stainforth sharing a message for the people of Northeast Ohio:

“St. Ed’s is a beautiful and welcoming place that empowers students to follow Martin Luther King’s example... to be real, culturally humble, to recognize your own limitations, your own biases, your own faults, but to be open and to be excited about learning about other people’s perspectives.”