New York English Academy Rookie blog

Martin Luther King Day January 12, 2016

In the United States, every January we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) Day. It is one of only three national holidays honoring an individual.


MLK was born in Atlanta, Georgia where he earned a B.A. in Sociology while still a teenager. As an unknown, 26-year-old pastor in Montgomery, Alabama, he organized the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott to protest poor treatment of black passengers. The boycott lasted more than a year during which MLK was arrested and his house bombed. But after that the Montgomery bus system was no longer segregated.

MLK studied the teaching of Mahatma Gandhi and believed non-violent resistance to fight against tyranny and oppression. He encouraged and trained his followers to resist the urge to lash out in anger. He would go on to win a nobel peace prize and become one of the most powerful voices in the 1960’s civil right movement.

But MLK’s strength made him powerful enemies too. The U.S. government began surveillance of MLK in order to silence and intimidate him. And in 1968 he was assassinated in Memphis. He was not even 40 years old. Today MLK is a national hero and the only non-president to have a prominent memorial on the National Mall in Washington D.C.

“You may be 38 years old, as I happen to be. And one day, some great opportunity stands before you and calls you to stand up for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause. And you refuse to do it because you are afraid…. You refuse to do it because you want to live longer…. You’re afraid that you will lose your job, or you are afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity, or you’re afraid that somebody will stab you, or shoot at you or bomb your house; so you refuse to take the stand

Well, you may go on and live until you are 90, but you’re just as dead at 38 as you would be at 90. And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit.” -MLK

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Polar Plunge! January 6, 2016

It’s January. Let’s go to the beach!

It may sound crazy but one group, called The Polar Bear Club, celebrates the new year with an annual plunge into icy cold water. The tradition goes back more than hundred years and originated with the Scandinavians. It was a way to rapidly cool off after the heat of their traditional saunas.


In the United States, the first frigid swim took place in Boston in 1904. Since then, this tradition has spread all over the United States, and now takes place in many major cities. In New York City, the Coney Island Polar Bear Club hosts a dip at the famous Brooklyn beach. The number of participants increases from year to year. On January 1, 2015, 1,500 people participated in the chilly dive in Boston alone!

These brave people call themselves “Polar Bears” and often dress in costumes of the ancient Vikings and Scots — running into the water with swords in hand. Nothing can stop them! Why, you ask? Well, some say plunging into the icy water is very good for your health. But these events are also held in order to raise money for charity. Thousands of dollars are collected for worthy causes every year.

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