Monday, March 24, 2014

Spring 2014 Trip

I have a friend who always teases me when I get back from my 10 day journey with UW-Eau Claire students to study the Civil Rights Movement and issues of social change.  She asks, "Was it the best trip ever?"  And, I usually say yes and mean it!

People often ask me if I am crazy to take 108 college students on a trip with only one or two other faculty/staff along to help.  I always tell them it is a true pleasure and I get more from the students and the trip than I give.  This statement is so true for me each time, but especially this trip I was able to be filled up for the challenges in my sphere of social justice influence.  I have been feeling a bit tired and losing some energy.  Fighting for educational access is hard work.  I needed this trip and my students more than they needed me! I'm back and rededicated to finding funding to continue to build and expand the good work of Blugold Beginnings.  I saw first-hand this week what a difference it means to invest in students intentionally to support their success! Thank you students for reminding me why this work is so important!

The 2014 Spring Civil Rights Pilgrimage allowed 108 UW-Eau Claire students and three faculty/staff to learn so much about the Civil Rights Movement.  Each year the team of 8 student coordinators work tirelessly to plan an itinerary that creates opportunities for learning at every turn.  From a perfect selection of movies to well crafted discussions and activities to excellent speakers and museum selections, this trip was wonderfully planned!  I am grateful to lead coordinator, Maddi Rodgers, and her team, Jesse Martinez, Karen Dominguez, Joseph Huyhn, Jack Junker, Libby Richter, Shelby Abbott, and Michelle Purdun.  These students invested hundreds of hours into making this an amazing experience for their peers.  THANK YOU!

It is hard to describe the feeling of watching as a group of students investigate the past to make sense of their role in shaping our future. Students tell me time and again that the experience is life changing.  But, what does that mean for them exactly?  After our winter 2014 trip, it meant that a group of students worked together to create a spring break service trip to Selma, Alabama, one of our favorite stops on the CRP.  That group of students motivated 25 of their peers to join them for a week of learning about non-violent direct action and social change as well as completing many hours of service in a wonderful town. Those same students are working with this spring's CRP travelers to bring the Random Acts of Theatre Company to Eau Claire April 24 through 26th.  This exchange of ideas and talents is just one small example of what can happen when students begin to see the role they play in making a brighter future. 

On the trip we are inspired by many speakers who share their history with us in an effort to help us all picture what our future could be.  Mr. Charles Person, Freedom Rider, asks us, "What will you get on the bus for?" Ms. Joanne Bland, Bloody Sunday Marcher, reminds us that, "Movements are like jigsaw puzzles, and the picture is not complete without your piece."  She also says, "Now get up off your behind and do something!"  Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles tells us, "You can kill the dreamer, but you cannot kill the dream!" 

I am grateful to all of the people who took time out of their days to give us tours, speak to our group, and inspire us to work for social justice today.  These guides and educators play an important role in helping our students to develop personal plans for social justice action.  I am encouraged by the action taken by students after this trip and know that this action will help to make long term positive change!






















On our last day of discussion, I ask students in my class to stand and deliver...this means they must commit  to doing at least three things differently when they return to campus.  I ask them to write down this commitment.  The plans range from working to intentionally develop relationships with more people from diverse backgrounds, step outside of their comfort zone, to working for justice with a specific agency to exercising their right to vote.  These pledges help to bring about personal and social change. Students also pledge to work toward social justice while we are at the Civil Rights Memorial at the Southern Poverty Law Center.  These pledges to stand and deliver and committing to justice will matter for our collective future.




I committed to work toward filling Zorn Arena for our RATCo. event on April 25th at 7:30 p.m.  Students will also have the opportunity to participate in King Non-violent Direct Action Training on Saturday, April 26th. This Selma-Eau Claire Exchange project will be a wonderful way for us to learn from the Selma Seven and gain from their talents and life experience. This is a perfect circle of giving since we were able to share our talents in service to the Freedom Foundation while we were in Selma.




As I look back on the last ten days with a group of amazing UW-Eau Claire, I am more inspired than ever to seek additional funding to keep this project alive and growing for our students.  I plan to launch a campaign through the UW-Eau Claire Foundation this year to build a fund so this project can stay alive for many years to come.  I am also more motivated than ever to grow the Blugold Beginnings program.  Almost every speaker we listened to during our journey talked about the value of education.  All kids deserve an opportunity to access post-secondary education and training.  I rededicate myself today to working tirelessly to keep Blugold Beginnings growing and expanding in the Chippewa Valley!

Like the founder of Heifer International, I can see clearly how empowering young people to build our community can make a difference!  Thank you, Kalia Yang, for providing me with motivation and inspiration!  

I need to thank my beautiful daughter for her willingness to use her time as a UW-Eau Claire Youth Options student to explore issues of racism and social justice.  It is clearer to me than ever before that our high school youth need more opportunities like this one to reshape their world view!  I love you so much and hope you will be a change agent, Miranda.

In closing, thank you to each and every UW-Eau Claire student who participated in the Spring 2014 Civil Rights Pilgrimage.  I learned something from each of you.  I am so lucky to have a job where I can be challenged to learn and grow every day. I cannot wait to see the amazing things you will all do with the knowledge you gained in the last ten days!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Recap of this Incredible Journey

 I have finally settled back in at Eau Claire once getting back from the Civil Rights Pilgrimage.  WOW. I have unpacked, started doing laundry, and have finally sat down for the first time and soaked everything in about what has happened during the past 10 days.  This incredible experience has just flown by and I cannot begin to express how grateful I am to all the coordinators, donors,  Jodi, as well as all the wonderful people I was able to meet this past week.

The stories, memories, tears, and laughter that I experienced this past week is indescribable.  To say that this trip was memorable would be an understatement.  This trip has changed me for the better and taught me some incredible life changing lessons.  One of the most impactful experiences on this trip for me would be when we went through the slavery reenactment in Selma, Alabama.  I didn't realize how emotional I would become.  We were belittled, cussed at, and overall were made to feel like absolutely nothing.  What emotionally struck me the most was when one of my very best friends was chosen out of the line of "slaves" and had to "kill" two additional people in the line up.  Even though I knew all of this was just an act the emotional guilt and anxiety I felt during this reenactment was overwhelming at times.  Walking away from this reenactment and Selma, Alabama I realized how truly blessed I am.  Sometimes it is so easy to take for granted the small things in life.  This reenactment reminded me of the importance of living each day to the fullest and always being thankful for the opportunities that are presented to you each and everyday.



Another part of the trip that left an extreme impression on me was when we went to Memphis, Tennessee and looked at where MLK was killed along with being able to listen to Reverend Billy Kyles speak about never letting your dream die.  In Reverend Kyles speech he kept referencing the famous quote, "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly." ~Langston Hughes. This quote really sat with me throughout his speech because he reminded me of the importance of never giving up on a dream.  One of the greatest parts about the Civil Rights Pilgrimage is that many of the places we visited we have read about in text books or learned about in a history class, but nothing can compare to a personal experience one can have by seeing actual historical places in our nation's history.  No test, book, or lecture in any classroom can prepare me for what I heard, saw, and witnessed this past week.



I start my school day tomorrow with what I feel is a fresh perspective on life.  I carry these remarkable stories on my shoulders now and I am ready to continue sharing these lessons and memories with anyone who will listen.  I see my greatness and I am ready to share it with the world. As Ms. Bland reminded us all (pictured to the left) we are all a jigsaw piece in this giant puzzle of life.  I need to fulfill my piece of the puzzle or it will never be complete  This trip was immeasurably rewarding for myself and I know so many others.  I am blessed to have been able to participate and meet so many outstanding men and women of our nation's history.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Little Rock, Arkansas

Today we had the opportunity not even to see Little Rock Central High School, but as well meet the principle of the high school. It was really amazing to actually see the first desegregated high school that nine African-American students took the initiative and courage to end segregation in schools.
One thing that i love about today's tours is that hearing and learning about those students just ordinary people that risked their lives to make American society come together and respect one-another no matter the skin color.
I highly would encourage others to go to this trip. I learned so much about my self as well as others and met so many great people that i wish i could go again next time. Not only i got to learn the civil rights movement more in depth but actually experience it by seeing those places and meeting some of those people that participated in the movement. It is by far the best experience in my life.








And here are some pictures of the central high school and the 9 sculptures.