Friday, January 16, 2015

Strength and Spirit

Following our bridge crossing, the student photographer on our trip captured this amazing image of Fue Khang, one of the students in the Blugold Beginnings Learning Community. This picture illustrates the sheer will, courage and spirit of  so many students as they strive to realize the dream of higher education. To see this strength of spirit on display in front of the memorial to the marchers of Bloody Sunday was a perfect reminder to me of my piece of the social change puzzle! I need to make opportunities for students to display their strength and provide safe spaces for them to grow and learn. Then all I need to do is get out of the way as they achieve their own greatness! 

The March Continues

The opportunity to retrace the Voting Rights March inspired the UW-Eau Claire students to continue the work started by college students and young people during the civil rights movement. Ms. Joanne reminded us that we all hold an important piece of the movement for social change. She challenged us to think about what skills and talents we each bring to the social change movement as we were walking across the bridge. 

As I walked I thought with intense conviction about how I can use my gifts when I get back to Eau Claire. Much like my first trip across the bridge in 2008, I committed myself to improving access to higher education and equal opportunities within the K-12. System. We still have so much work to do to realize that vision. This bridge crossing helped me to think of the courage needed to fight for what is right for the children of our community...ALL children! 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Staff story featuring our day in Selma

A powerful day in Selma, Alabama

Reflections on courage

This morning one of our staff on the trip asked me if I am still impacted when I go through the enslavement reenactment. I thought for a moment and responded that I am still so deeply moved by the experience.  I am inspired by the courage, strength, and spirit that resonates through Efreye's performance as an enslaved person.  I am also reminded that we still have much work to do to correct the institutions that have maintained the power structure put in place as a result of the history of slavery.

I am also moved to tears each time by the power the experience holds for our students. The opportunity to look history in the eye impacts each student in a different way. Some students are empowered by the portrayal of courage of their ancestors.  Other are able to think how it might have felt to be in that situation.  Still others think about the ways in which the experience mirrors some of their experience as a refugee. And other students grapple with the privilege afforded to them because of the color of their skin.

 I also have to face my own privilege. I have to take stock of how much I've grown, but reflect critically on the work I still need to do.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Our Learning Illustrated in Images

We began our day in Tuscaloosa learning about the Stand in the Schoolhouse Door and the integration of the University of Alabama. We then traveled to Montgomery where we visited the Southern Poverty Law Center's Civil Rights Memorial, the Alabama State Capital, the First White House of the Confederacy,  Rosa Parks Museum, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church and Parsonage, Montgomery Greyhound Station, and Court Square. We learned so much about U.S. history throughout the day.  We ended the day with a great meal and a rich discussion about the learning of the day.  

Using History to Build Our Future

I was so moved yesterday as I watched the students in the Blugold Beginnings Learning Community gathered around the Civil Rights Memorial to leave their mark on this place in history.  In leaving their mark and taking stock of this history, I knew that they were also building a part of their future.  I expect great things from these students. They have remarkable stories of  their own to share.  And, they have tremendous skills that will shape the future in ways I cannot even begin to image.  Thank you for inspiring me today, Blugolds!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Winterim 2015 Journey

In 2007 when four students came with their Residence Hall Director to talk with me about the possibility of beginning an alternative spring break focusing on civil rights, I could not have imagined the potential of their idea.  Today, I know fully the potential of a good idea and the creativity and hard work of a committed group of UW-Eau Claire students.  This travel experience, now known as the UW-Eau Claire Civil Rights Pilgrimage is so much more than a travel experience. It is the beginning of a life-long journey of self exploration, critical thinking, and social change.

As we begin our Winterim 2015 trip, I am especially grateful to each of the student coordinators who has added their own piece to this puzzle over the last seven years.  I am a better person because of each of you.  And, to all of the students who have taken this journey with me, I pledge to do better and be better because of the chance to learn and grow with you.  We are beginning Monday of our journey now.  I'll post pictures from our beginning days now.  Eager to learn today.
Photos taken by Hiedi Giacalone, UW-Eau Claire Student.