Celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.Guest post by Carlton R. Collins, a College Advisor with Cincinnati Youth Collaborative executing the GEAR UP grant at Norwood High School working with 10-12 grade students. He was born and raised in Cincinnati and graduated from Morehouse College in 2011 where he founded Morehouse Education Association before returning to Cincinnati to serve youth locally. The newlywed and father of a son plans to release his book REBEL in 2016. Follow Carlton on Twitter and Instagram.

Whenever we sing our college hymn we stand shoulder to shoulder, right arm over the left and we would sing the words including, “So to bind each son the other into ties more brotherly.” One of my fondest memories at Morehouse College was to be part of a union with other young men who share ambitious goals and a common past. I would swell with pride and always felt so connected with the alumni, my elder brothers, of the only African-American male-focused institution of higher education in the world. Our most illustrious alumnus, one that I have followed the moral example of my entire life, is the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, a 1948 graduate of the college. It was his courage in the face of staunch resistance that has inspired tens of millions of people worldwide; he set the bar and set it high. And as I write my first book, Resist Every Bias on Every Level or REBEL, I think greatly of continuing the work of Dr. King and being a resounding voice in much-needed efforts of racial unity.

The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no moral…We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character–that is the goal of true education.

These are the words that are on the cornerstone of the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel, the very words that inspired me to become more than just another educator. It made me realize that my desire to work in the education field was not only about sharing knowledge with young people, but there was a greater purpose for my endeavors. No matter how much intelligence or how many degrees I would attain, it would be nothing without the character to go with it.

In our work with Cincinnati Public Schools, Norwood City Schools, and others throughout Greater Cincinnati, I think about all that college advisors, teachers, and administrators do for this city’s youth. I think about the model of Cincinnati Youth Collaborative, our focus on mentoring, and what that all means. It lead me back to the idea that we have a moral obligation to be more than just guides to students but to be an example of who they can become. Much like Dr. King was an example to so many; we too serve this same purpose with our students and it makes the difference. It is our character on display daily that has more impact on students than anything we could ever teach them through instruction. Not everyone connects with each lesson or every subject matter but all of our students have a capacity to connect on an emotional level with adults who pour into their lives.

Over the last few months I have considered what they lasting impressions that I can make in the lives of young people and if I have already. As one of my first mentees starts his fourth semester at Morehouse, I envision his graduation in 2018 and reflect on my “8:00 AM on the green” experience. Thus, I imagine being there to see him join into our brotherhood with the same pride and determination to make change in the world. Thinking of him makes me wonder where I would be without the people who positively impacted my life. I thought of their faces and it humbled me greatly because it was the realization that I am the sum total of what they instilled in me. It also brings value to the service I provide to my students now. It was awareness that only through my service to others could I be considered a man of high-character.

It brought me back to a sermon Dr. King delivered exactly two months before his assassination at Ebenezer Baptist Church in 1968. In this sermon he spoke of his own funeral and what he would want said about him. He said not to mention his accolades but “to mention that day, Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others… say that I was a drum major for justice.” So as we head into another Martin Luther King Jr. Day, it is important to remember that we are all part of the legacy that Dr. King has left behind and beneficiaries of the service that he provided to us all. Do your best to remember that after the festivities are over and the sun rises on January 19th that you are part of something greater than yourself: the service of Cincinnati’s future.