YMCA Presents Rare Martin Luther King Items to Local Institutions on Behalf of Princeton Young Achievers Program

Reception Launches Shirley Paris Circle to Sustain the PYA Program

Pictured are Princeton Public Library Director Leslie Berger (left) and Clayton Marsh (right), Co-chair of the Shirley Paris Circle, at a ceremony conducted last Friday evening, October 10, at the Princeton Theological Seminary’s new library. The YMCA presented two rare works by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to the Public and Seminary libraries on behalf of the Princeton Young Achievers program. The items were found by a Seminary student teacher ten years ago among stacks of children’s books at the Pannell Learning Center. “Like these items, Princeton Young Achievers is a treasure hiding in plain sight that needs our continued attention and care,” Mr. Marsh shared in his remarks.


PRINCETON – At a reception hosted by the Princeton Family YMCA board of directors on Friday evening, October 10, two rare works by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were presented to the Special Collections of the Princeton Public Library and the Princeton Theological Seminary on behalf of the YMCA’s Princeton Young Achievers program. Leslie Berger of the Princeton Public Library and Donald Vorp of the Princeton Theological Seminary Library, where the reception was hosted, represented the organizations at the ceremony. The works are Letter from a Birmingham City Jail (1963) in pamphlet form, presented to the Seminary, and a signed copy of Dr. King’s fourth and final book, first edition of Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? (1967), presented to the Princeton Public Library.

The story goes that almost 10 years ago, a student teacher from the Princeton Theological Seminary discovered the book and pamphlet hiding in a case of children’s books at the Henry Pannell Learning Center, PYA’s learning center on Clay Street. This year, YMCA volunteers determined that the time had come for the items to find an appropriate home where they would be cherished and cared for properly. The two libraries graciously accepted the items on permanent loan.

The reception also featured the announcement of the Shirley Paris Circle, a major giving circle established in memory of PYA’s founder, the late Dr. Shirley Paris who passed away in 1995. Dr. Paris’s family attended the event and shared remembrances of the program’s beginnings.

Co-chairs of the Shirley Paris Circle, Barbara Blumenthal and Clayton Marsh, both of Princeton, are former Princeton Young Achievers board members who served before the program merged with the YMCA in 2011. They spoke about the critical need for a quality afterschool program for Princeton’s most economically-disadvantaged children. “We know for certain, from the days of President Johnson’s War on Poverty, that afterschool programs are effective and can be transformational to children’s lives and futures,” Ms. Blumenthal said. Mr. Marsh and Ms. Blumenthal are committed to increasing individual support for the Princeton Young Achievers program and hope to recruit 40 families in Princeton to participate with an annual major gift. To join the Circle, members are asked to give $1,000 or more annually for five or more years to sustain the Princeton Young Achievers which costs approximately $200,000 a year to deliver.

Referring to Rev. Dr. King’s rare works found at the Pannell Center, Mr. Marsh added, “Like these items, Princeton Young Achievers is treasure hiding in plain sight that needs our continued attention and care.” He encouraged those attending to join him in supporting the cause. For more information about the Shirley Paris Circle or to make a donation to the Princeton Young Achievers program, please contact Denise Soto, Director of Development & Communications at 609-497-9622 x209.


About PYA

Founded in 1993 by Dr. Shirley Paris, Princeton Young Achievers (PYA) is a unique after school program that helps80—90 children from low- and moderate-income families, many of whom live in Princeton’s subsidized housing communities, improve their school performance and academic skills. Now a part of the Princeton Family YMCA, the program provides homework assistance, educational support and enrichments on a daily basis from 3:30 to 5:30 pm at three learning centers to children in Kindergarten through 5th grade from all four Princeton elementary schools.


About the Y

The Y is one of the nation’s leading nonprofit strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Across the U.S., 2,687 Ys engage 21 million men, women and children – regardless of age, income or background – to nurture the potential of children and teens, improve the nation’s health and wellbeing and provide opportunities to give back and support neighbors. Anchored in more than 10,000 communities, the Y has the long-standing relationships and physical presence not just to promise, but to deliver, lasting personal and social change. www.princetonymca.org