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Macclenny couple hosts Chinese teen for 10 months

"Sylvia" (center) with host parents Ryan and Sandi Brannan.Qianyu Huang, or Syliva as she’s known to her host family, is a 17-year-old foreign exchange student from China living with a north Macclenny couple and their two poodles.

Sylvia started attending Baker County High School shortly after arriving in the country last August. She enjoys her history, art, culinary and agriculture classes and takes calculus online at home because it’s not offered at BCHS.

“[School here] is different,” Sylvia said during a recent interview with The Press. “I pick my schedule. In Chinese school, the schools pick the schedule for you. You have subjects you must learn, so it’s different.”

And the differences don’t end there.

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MLK’s final speech recited for annual tribute program

The annual Martin Luther King Jr. parade and program began and ended at Emmanuel Church of God in Christ adjacent to Keller Intermediate School the afternoon of January 21, the anniversary of MLK’s birthday.

The highlight of the program and new this year was Stephanie Gaskins and her daughter, 14-year-old Kelsey Wilcox, reciting an excerpt of MLK’s last public speech before he was shot in 1968.

In the speech, known as “the mountaintop” speech, MLK talks of when he was stabbed by a woman at a book signing in Harlem 10 years earlier and how the doctors told him the knife came so close to a critical artery, had he sneezed he would have perished in the attack.

“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life — longevity has its place,” said Ms. Gaskins, a high school teacher and tutor with the new Keller Outreach Ministry, which offers free tutoring to students at St. James Baptist Church.

For video from the parade and program, click here.

“But I’m not concerned about that now,” she continued. “I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything, I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

The parade included fire department and ambulance units, a few classic cars like the 1970 Buick Wildcat driven by former school board member Paul Raulerson with daughter and schools superintendent Sherrie Raulerson; and a number of residents carrying signs and banners paying tribute to the slain civil rights leaders.

A hot dog lunch was served following the parade  as public officials and others shared their reflections on the MLK’s life.

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Gingerbread house builders at Westside Elementary

Students at Westside Elementary School were joined in the cafeteria by parents and teachers the afternoon of December 18 in crafting miniature houses of gingerbread, candy, frosting, pretzels, cereal and other tasty materials to bring home with them.

Pictured at left are students from Peggy Hand’s third grade class, including Pyper Pendleton (right) and Damarea Lee (middle) with Ms. Hand (rear).

Photo by Joel Addington

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