During their spring break, nine William Woods University students will embark on a cultural learning experience that will take them back more than 40 years. They will learn about and relive the Civil Rights Movement.
“Since this year marks such a significant change in our history, it will be an amazing experience to be able travel to the areas where some of the major milestones of change took place in our country,” said Beth Outz of Holts Summit, Mo., one of the students making the trip.
“This trip is allowing us the opportunity to learn and hear firsthand about the obstacles many people faced back in the 60s, which I know will prove to be a rewarding learning experience.”
“I think that the trip is more than a learning experience—it’s a way to relive the past,” another participant, Ciara Cheatum of Fulton, Mo., said. By exploring one the controversial times of our history, we can better understand the world today,”
Students enrolled in Woods Around the World, taught by the Rev. Travis Tamerius, WWU chaplain, will spend their spring break (March 16-20) touring the American South to further understand the Civil Rights Movement. During the weeks leading up to the trip, the class has been talking about the movement and reading articles to give them an initial understanding of what took place in the 1960s.
In addition to Outz and Cheatum, making the trip will be Jessica Bargate of Jefferson City, Mo.; Elizabeth Cato of Grapevine, Texas; Katirose Flint of Berger, Mo.; Amy Folkedahl of Weatherby Lake, Mo.; Kristen Garnett of Jefferson City, Mo.; Ashley Martin of Belvidere, Ill., and Jessica Tipton of Emory, Texas.
“I hope that the information I gain leading up to and during this trip will give me a realistic perspective of the Civil Rights Movement,” Garnett said. “There are so many parallels I see in other eras—I find it fascinating.”
“I am taking African-American history this semester, which fits in perfectly with this trip,” Bargate said. “That class has given me a greater appreciation for what an impact the movement had on our culture. I am looking forward to following the path of this important part of our history.”
Flint said, “I know about slavery and the Civil Rights Movement, but it has never been personal to me. I hope that on this trip it will become real to me in a way it has never been before.”
According to Tamerius, the trip is designed to tie together everything learned in class. During the trip, students will experience places and events discussed in lectures. To further their education and understanding, they will have the opportunity to interview participants in the Civil Rights Movement to ask questions and get firsthand accounts.
“I am a social work major,” Tipton said, “and I am doing my senior internship at the Rosa Parks Center. I hope to bring back to them the stories of courage and strength from the people we meet on the Civil Rights Trail, and I know that for some of them it will be the inspiration they need.”
The trip is made possible through a grant from the Oreon E. Scott Foundation. Woods Around the World is a unique approach to education that takes the student beyond the classroom and the textbook and into the real world of another culture, Tamerius explained.
“I wanted to take the class because of my interest in the Civil Rights Movement and the ability of a group of determined individuals to make a change,” Folkedahl said. “I also wanted to go on this trip because of the recent history being made with the election of Barack Obama.”
Students spend part of a semester studying a nation or culture and its people, including the history and way of life—then they travel to see that culture firsthand. When they return, students complete a supervised project that reflects on the experience. In past years, students have studied Kenya and Peru.
The Civil Rights trip, lasting five days, will take students to several of the major cities involved, including Atlanta, Ga.; Montgomery, Ala.; Selma, Ala., and Memphis, Tenn. WWU faculty and staff members will accompany the group of students.
During the trip, students will tour some of the nation’s landmarks, including the birthplace of Martin Luther King, the Rosa Parks Library and Museum and the National Civil Rights Museum. Students will also visit an African-American church in Atlanta, Ga., and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.
“I can’t wait to go to the different museums and places of such significance in our history,” Martin said. “Being able to go on the Civil Rights Trail is an experience that I think will stay with me forever, especially given what has recently taken place in our country.”