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“If I cannot do great things,
I can do small things
in a great way.”

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Kalusche sisters to be recognized at MLK breakfast 

BY NATASHA BARBER | STAFF WRITER

        SAUK RAPIDS – Two Sauk Rapids-Rice students will be honored Monday for their efforts in making an iconic dream a reality.
    Sisters Hailey and Ava Kalusche are winners in the Dexter R. Stanton Essay and Visual Art Contest. They will be honored at the seventh annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast and Day of Service Jan. 20 at the River’s Edge Convention Center in St. Cloud. The breakfast takes place from 8-10:30 a.m. on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a federal holiday which observes social activist Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. The students will receive a certificate and monetary award, and their work will be displayed at the convention center through February.
    The Dexter R. Stanton Essay and Visual Art Contest is open to St. Cloud area youth – kindergarten through college – and is named after a St. Cloud State University student who initiated the contest to involve youth in MLK’s legacy and publicly recognize art and leadership abilities. The contest is coordinated by the Community Anti-racism Education Initiative and organized alongside the annual breakfast. Each year, the contest embraces one MLK quote as its theme. This year, the focus was, “If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way,” and students were asked to interpret the theme in their submissions.  
    The Kalusches, of St. Cloud, became involved in the contest through their involvement in Promise Neighborhood of Central Minnesota. Sauk Rapids resident Sarah Drake is a teaching artist with the Central Minnesota Arts Board and was an artist-in-residence at the nonprofit in fall 2019.
    “No matter how old we are, how much money we have or what color we are, we all have something that we are good at that we can use to make our community better and to help Dr. King’s dream be more of a reality,” said Drake, who has been on the planning committee for the breakfast since its inception and chairs the essay and art contest committee. “That was our guide for the project, but how they interpreted it and what materials they chose to use was up to them.”
    Hailey, a sixth grade student at Sauk Rapids-Rice Middle School, and Ava, a fifth grade student at Mississippi Heights Elementary School, were selected as two of 30 winners across 157 entrants.
    Ava’s entry, which was created with paints and oil pastels, depicts a girl staring into a mirror. On the surface of the mirror are the thoughts the girl feels about herself, but beyond the surface is positivity – perspectives reflected by others.
    “A lot of people are insecure,” Ava said. “… Sometimes what you see is not true.”
    Ava wrote in her artist’s statement, which was weighted equally to the visual piece during judging, that her picture was about self-esteem and she chooses to encourage others with positivity.
     The oil pastel drawing that Hailey entered shows a group of people who have painted art and the word help on the wall in order to inspire others. Her artist statement reads, “Helping is one of the smallest favors or things you could do to be good in the community. It could be from picking up things in your house to cheering up your friends when their sad.”
    Hailey said the simple notion of helping can go a long way toward MLK’s dream of unity.
    “Helping is one of the nicest things to do,” Hailey said. “I didn’t know what to do for my piece, and Sarah helped me find an idea and my friends helped me find an idea. … (MLK) helped African Americans get less segregation and everyone needs to help someone at some point because helping can make anyone happy, and I think happiness is the best thing in the world.”
    Drake is proud of the girls’ accomplishments and foresight at such a young age.
    “Anything like this as a community member, I love to see it,” Drake said “… Putting your art out there is a very vulnerable thing; the courage it takes to do that for a topic as important as Dr. King’s dream. Giving advice to the community through their artwork on how they can take steps to make Dr. King’s dream a reality is a very important thing, very courageous, and I’m very proud of them. And, I’m honored I got to work with them.”
    The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast and Day of Service is free and open to the public, but registration is required. Registration for the event is found at https://www.stcloudstate.edu/care/MLK-breakfast. read more