Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King, Jr., led a mentoring session for students Wednesday at UCF.
"Pace yourself and be realistic, because social justice requires longevity — things don't happen overnight," King advised the intimate circle of about 20 students. They listened intently as she spoke of the ways students can use their college years to bridge gaps of communication between ethnicities and help transform the education system to teach more culturally inclusive history classes.
"We have to find a way to really teach the total comprehensive history of America that is inclusive of all cultures," she said. "Not just the bad of it, but even the good of it, in essence."
King said she wishes schools would shed more light on the inventions African-Americans contributed to society. The minister also advised students to be more engaged in their communities by visiting schools of other racial majorities or neighborhoods, and more aware of the relationship between race, violence and the media.
King's mentoring session followed her speech at Wednesday morning's Joseph C. Andrews Mentoring Celebration. The celebration, hosted by the Multicultural Student Center, among other organizations, was one of several events commemorating Black History Month at UCF.
Students who attended the mentoring session said they felt encouraged and reflective about how to implement King's advice.
Freshman political science major Juliette Celestin said the session spurred introspective thoughts about the development of her own identity and her role in the UCF community.
"I have to discover who I am within," Celestin said. "Instead of waiting for people to tell you who you are, because that's just their perspective and it doesn't define you."
King's remarks about branching beyond one's comfort zone resonated with Celestin, a Miami native who said she was not accustomed to having friends of other ethnicities until attending UCF this year.
"I can be friends with who I want to, as long as they make me a better person," Celestin said.
Jefferson Noel, a communications major at Valencia College, echoed Celestin's reflections.
"In this society, it's perfect that I'm around people who don't look like me," Noel said. "You need to be able to engage with people who are different than you."
Noel, who also grew up in a predominantly black Miami neighborhood, said interacting with people from all walks of life has been a valuable part of his college experience.
During her mentoring session, King stressed living up to one's beliefs while balancing the demands of college life.
"I learned from him the importance of being congruent with what you believe," said King on one of many elements she has treasured from her father's legacy.
Nada Hassanein is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @nhassanein_or email her at NadaH@CentralFloridaFuture.com.