(Jan. 2, 2018) -- Student leaders from The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) hit the road today for a unique opportunity to experience history most Americans only read about or study in class. More than 50 Roadrunners are taking a five-day bus ride across the southern United States to see historical landmarks during the sixth annual Civil Rights and Social Justice Experience.
“We want to develop students who are going to be civic leaders, who are identifying the connections between civic engagement, their academic journeys and who they are as individuals,” said Eliot Howard, associate director of the Student Leadership Center, which hosts the trip.
The first stop is Little Rock, Arkansas where students will tour Little Rock Central High School, which played an integral role in the desegregation of public schools in the U.S. in the 1950s. They’ll also visit the Clinton School of Public Service.
Next, they will drive to Birmingham, Alabama to visit Kelly Ingram Park, which served as a central staging ground for large demonstrations during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. Across from the park, they’ll step inside the 16th Street Baptist Church, where four young girls were killed in 1963 in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement. The UTSA students will also tour the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.
Finally, the students will spend two days in Memphis where local civil rights activist Elaine Turner will give them a personal tour of the W.C. Handy Museum, Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum, Civil Rights Museum and Stax Museum of American Soul Music.
This will be the second Civil Rights and Social Justice Experience for Biran Jallow, a UTSA undergraduate from Houston majoring in cybersecurity.
“It taught me to embrace my roots as an African American, first-gen student,” Jallow said. “It’s cool to see history in person. The trip last year had a profound impact on me, so I wanted to share that learning experience with my classmates.”
Aniriel Garcia-Vazquez ’15, a first-generation student pursuing her master’s of education in school counseling, is taking the trip for the first time.
“These are opportunities that you may not be able to get anywhere else outside of the university setting,” Garcia-Vazquez said. ”I’m excited to explore the Civil Rights Movement in a different way than reading a textbook and discussing it in class.”
While on the bus, the students will discuss what they learned, watch a documentary on the Freedom Riders and see other films about the Civil Rights Movement.
“We want the students to engage across their differences and appreciate diversity,” Howard said. “We are teaching them to problem solve and draw from the lessons of this amazing period in our American history.”
After they return to UTSA, the learning isn’t over. The students will share what they learned on the bus trip during the Civil Rights and Justice Experience Reflection at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 16 in the University Center Denman Room (UC 2.01.28). The university community is invited to attend.
“We challenge the students to identify specific goals for how they will apply the learning and inspiration they’re experiencing on the trip,” Howard said.
All UTSA students are eligible to apply for the experience. The Student Leadership Center accepts applications each summer and selects students to attend in the fall. Students are responsible for about half the cost. The rest is covered by the student life budget.
Howard concluded, “There is a seat on the bus for anyone.”
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