Students at Robert F. Morehead Middle School in the Dollarway School District observed the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on Thursday with cake and a promise to live up to his ideals as part of this week's Kingfest activities.

Students at Robert F. Morehead Middle School in the Dollarway School District observed the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on Thursday with cake and a promise to live up to his ideals as part of this week’s Kingfest activities.

“They signed the non-violence pledge in which they promised to stay in school until graduation and promised to avoid becoming members of a gang and other behaviors that would get them suspended from school,” said Kingfest organizer Rev. Jesse Turner.

Turner said an important component of the MLK Birthday Bash was the completion of a survey by the 116 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders at Morehead who are participating in the Pen or Pencil program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice.

“These students started the program in the summer and took a survey asking them for their opinions on issues including who or what affects their decision-making and whether or not they are members of a gang,” Turner said. “Today they took another survey to see if their views on anything have changed after participating in Pen or Pencil for a while.”

Turner said the Pen or Pencil program, now in its second year, is funded by the DOJ Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The program incorporates mentoring with positive youth development and is focused on youth who are neglected, delinquent and at-risk.

“Pen stands for penitentiary and pencil stands for education, the two rival choices for many Arkansas students as well as students across the country,” Turner said.

Turner said students must get written permission from their parents before taking part in the program.