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This 8.5-foot banner displays an image of Martin Luther King Jr. and a quote that illuminates the message of a play to be performed Friday by Sharpsville Elementary students.

SHARPSVILLE — Sonny Parker wants students at Sharpsville Elementary School to know that whatever they do, they have to keep moving forward.

The message — derived from a quote by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. — will be at the heart of a play produced by Parker and performed by students to honor the late civil rights activist Friday at the elementary school.

Parker said the play will provide a fitting lesson for students on Black History Month.

“I wanted to do something a little different,” Parker said. “I don’t know of any other schools who are putting on a play, and I think the message is much more authentic when it comes from kids.”

The play is a production of Mighty Cubs — a mentoring organization that Parker founded last year. Sharpsville Area School District is one of three schools that participate in the Mighty Cubs’ Get R.I.G.H.T. program, which aims to take action against bullying.

The students have been preparing for the play for more than a month, and Parker said they have already had quite an education on King’s life.

“Some of the kids knew a little bit about him, but there were some who hadn’t heard of him at all,” Parker said. “They couldn’t believe he died to help make black and white people be together. It was emotional for a lot of them.”

Roughly 40 students will present the play wearing homemade t-shirts, each with a different homage to the civil rights movement. The young performers will recite quotes from King and introduce songs and video clips.

“The kids are very excited,” Parker said. “It’s going to be fun — but serious at the same time. We’re going to be learning.”

Although only a portion of the Sharpsville Elementary student body will perform in the play, it took a school-wide effort to turn the production into a reality. Each student played a role in creating the set, which included a monument made by the fourth-grade class and signs made by fifth-graders.

“I’m proud of them for what they accomplished and for helping me put this together,” Parker said. “I couldn’t do it without them.”

Each student was also asked to trace the outline of their hand. Those drawings will be hung up in the gymnasium with the student’s name written on it. The hands will serve as raffle tickets to win one of 25 certificates for the school cafeteria or Marco’s Pizza.

Out of everyone involved in the production, Parker said he is the only one with pre-show butterflies.

“I’m always nervous,” he said. “These kinds of events have become regular to me, but I never know what to expect or who is going to come out.”

The play starts at 2:15 p.m. at Sharpsville Elementary School. Admission is free and the event is open to the public.

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