Hope

March 24: So we as a group visited Knox Elementary, the last school on our trip that went to tutor the kids. Going to Payne Elem. and SOD (School of Discovery) the other days was interesting because it was strange to see how run down and lack of resources the schools had to prepare its students. It reminded me of the schools people went to half a century ago that wasn’t well kept. It made me sad that these wonderful kids have to go to a school like this but fortunately today’s school was a sign of hope. The school looked well kept and had motivational artwork on the wall.
I got to tutor kids in a kindergarten class. It was so exciting seeing them participating. They were so innocent and eager to learn. I actually had a few minutes to talk to their teacher and other faculty. I learned how they recognize Selma needs help and how change for the better comes slow but is nonetheless important. I was really happy I was able to talk to them and get insider info about Selma. I hope to back.

A Dwindling Community

IMG_5222Alabama has been a very insightful and humbling experience. Volunteering at the 6th grade School of Discovery was very interesting. Upon arrival, I was not sure what to expect.

The school was a very old building “one of the oldest in town” stated the principal. It reminded me much of the building that I was at during my first two years of high school. There were so many kids in the halls during transition and it was hard to believe that all of them were sixth graders. First, I began helping with a science class. The class was learning about volcanoes and I was relearning with them (haha). For the first half of the lesson, I couldn’t really help the teacher because it was mostly lecture and watching a video. The last part of the class, I was able to flip through animated slides and help the children understand more about the volcanoes and to elaborate a little more than the slides did. In sitting there and observing, I noticed that many of the students did not have pencils or pens and needed to borrow them from their teacher. In addition to that, I noticed that there was not enough books for each student and the books they did have were very torn and old.

After some time with the science classes, I went to an English/elective class that had a substitute. I enjoyed this class a lot more IMG_5229because I, along with four other ASB girls, were able to talk with the students about college and answer any questions that they may have had. The girls and I asked the children a variety of questions as well. One of these questions was what they liked/disliked about Selma. Almost immediately a boy raised his hand saying how he did not like how there were so many shootings, deaths, and crimes. Another student mentioned that she did not like that there were no places to shop and not very many restaurants. The children know that their town is dying, they can see that stores are closing, they know that there is crime all around them. It is hard to see that they’ve become so used to it that its not a huge deal. It seems as if they just brush it off.

 

Why do you wear that scarf?

IMG_20160321_152236So the usual for this morning before heading out was brushing my hair into a bun and wrapping my scarf around my head before heading out.

I was sure that there was going to be questions about it at the elementary school and I had my answer ready, but I was in no way prepared for the response I got that day….

we had just gone outside for play break, and were on the swings, we were putting together a hot dog ( three people on two swings interlocked by our legs) once we finished that, a couple of girls and I were chatting while swinging and there came THE question.

So what’s the reason you wear that on your head? Is it from your culture?

No Its because I didn’t feel like doing my hair this morning.

They all laughed, and one said she wish she could do that, then another asked: can we see it?

Sure, I said.

I slightly lifted my scarf to show the girls and one replied: OH THAT’S WHY YOU WEAR IT! That’s okay my momma doesn’t know how to braid either, she whispered.

Little Inspiration Makers

“Our heritage and ideals, our code and standards – the things we live by and teach our children – are preserved or diminished by how freely we exchange ideas and feelings.” –Walt Disney

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     To give you a little background, on Saturday afternoon our Alternative Spring Break group of 17 individuals composed of two faculty & staff members, two student leaders, and thirteen amazing students arrived into Selma. You would have thought we had fallen back in time. Bare streets, brick buildings, closed down stores and the bridgeIMG_4943 that started it all. The town has a population of 19,000 composed of 70% African Americans and 30% Whites. While it takes only five minutes to get from any given point to another that also means it takes the same amount of time to move into unwanted territory. The town is divided much like it was in the 50s and 60s. East side, west side, and old town make up this city rich in history. East side is comprised majorly by African Americans and maybe a few other minorities. With dirt roads, shotgun houses, and even a formerly “colored only swimming pool” it is easy to understand how the children I have met have referred to it as “the projects”. Drive five minutes to the other side of town and you’ll be in West Side. Beautiful houses, clean streets and an all-white country club is icing on the cake of this “whites only” neighborhood. How can this be? Well if the $1500 one-time membership entrance fee and $190 monthly family fee wasn’t enough to bar minority individuals in Selma where the income per capita is $16,605, then the board members who have to vote and have 100% agreement on all new members will be. Smack dab in the middle of it all is Old Town. An integrated neighborhood, these houses are marked with placards that identify their construction date some dating back to the Pre-Civil War era. Even though this neighborhood is integrated, there are many who are in disagreement. With family roots that date back to confederate generals, slave owners, and Ku Klux Klan members some just can’t move past the old ways. While learning about the history of Selma was a great experience, nothing could prepare me for the mindset and attitudes of the individuals who are beaten down by their society every day.

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On Monday, we had the amazing opportunity to visit Payne Elementary School. I was excited to work with children and I eagerly choose first grade. Payne Elementary School is comprised of 279 students from Kindergarten to Fifth grade. Since the schools are still segregIMG_4914ated all of the children are African American. I know what you’re thinking. I must be crazy that’s against the law and there is no way the schools can still be segregated. And although yes I am a tad crazy and yes segregated schools are against the law, the schools are definitely still segregated. And although it may not be by law that they keep the black and white students apart, they do have a method to their madness. Introducing Morgan Academy, “a pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade, coeducational independent school.” In short, the white community usually sends their family to the private Morgan Academy while the low income minorities (who can’t get in or afford the private school) go to the public school system. Don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with going to a Public school but when 30% of your population is white and less than 1% of them attend a public school you have a serious diversity issue.

The children are hyper aware of their surroundings. The first graders I was able to talk to Despite the challenges they face, the children I met at Payne Elementary were outspoken, spectacular and brave. They understood the challenges that were occurring in their neighborhoods but yet wanted better for themselves. They dream of growing up to be football players, teachers, and sign language interpreters. They are the inspiration and the reason so many continue to work to build a better Selma.

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Remember, as our friends at Something New say “It’s not a moment; It’s a MOVEMENT!”

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A Day at Payne Elementary

Today was our third day in Selma, AL and I woke up feeling excited about what the day would bring. We went to Payne Elementary School today and sat in and helped out in the classrooms with the students and teachers. I sat in on a 1st grade class and what struck me while sitting in today was that a good majority of the class had a hard time counting and adding numbers together. I felt very upset by this. The teacher told me that when the class first started, all the kids in the class could not count by 5’s and 10’s. We did a lot of Math problems in general and I helped this one particular boy who was having such a hard time with adding and subtracting. The teacher told me that he would have to stay back a grade because he just wasn’t understanding the material and wasn’t focusing. It was very sad to me to see him struggle and get frustrated because a lot of the other students knew the material more than he did. After I helped him, he thanked me and gave me a huge hug and it made me feel so good about helping him and just being able to be there for the students in the class. Something else I learned today at Payne was that in the particular class I was in, almost half of the students would have to stay back and repeat the 1st grade due to low test scores in Math and Reading. It was upsetting to see this because it really seems like a lot of the children try their hardest to do well.

I was able to sit with three students in the class and tutor them on certain words that they were having trouble with. It upsets me to know that two of the kids I had in my group had such low grades in the class that they would have to stay back a grade. We were at Payne Elementary School pretty much all day working with these kids and it was definitely a very interesting and eye opening experience to be a part of. The kids are just so full of energy and are just overall great kids and I can’t wait to work with them again on Wednesday and I just looking forward to the rest of the week in general.

So far, it’s been such an amazing experience and I’m so glad that I came on this trip and met all these wonderful people who are so passionate in what the do and I love the ASB group that I’m here with in Selma!

Foundations of Non-Violence Training on Sunday

Yesterday on Sunday was a fantastic day of non-violence training. The training was led by former NBA player Ron Smith and a gentleman named Barak Gibson.

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First we had a wonderful homemade breakfast at Shawn and Talisa’s home in Selma. Then we headed to the church.

When I first heard of us doing non-violence training, I imagined a scene from the movie Selma where protestors were being trained how to resist and react with possible violence from racist groups. We didn’t actually do that since we were doing just a single day of training. We did something more important: lay the foundations and values of non-violence training.

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We began by playing a game called Butts Up to warm up and make sure people were listening and awake.

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We then performed an exercise where we picked a partner who we didn’t know well and learned things about them. After we learned the information, we then had to get in front of everyone and introduce our partner to the entire class (and hopefully not forget any details we had just learned).

The purpose of this single day training was to lay the foundations of non-violence training. This began with just simply learning how to connect with people. This included getting to know them through communication and learning not to label or stereotype people.

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For lunch we had a FANTASTIC quesadilla plate with chicken quesadillas, spanish rice, lovely black beans, and all the jalapeños one could want.

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After lunch we focused on labels and values. Students had to pick their top 5 values. Then we broke up into teams to come up with common values our entire team could agree on.

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Before dinner, we ended our non-violence training with a wonderful debriefing of what we learned the past 4+ hours. I really loved debriefing. It helps bring people back to focus on what we had learned, each individuals thoughts and reactions, helps people retain what they just learned, and allows people to ask for clarifications.

What True Courage Looks Like

Today, our second day in Selma, we did our nonviolence training. We started by getting to know each other better through group exercises and discussion of different cultures, values, and the importance of community. We learned about nonviolence and its six principles: 1) nonviolence is the way of life for courageous people, 2) the beloved community is the framework for the future, 3) attack forces of evil, not the persons doing evil, 4) accept suffering without retaliation, for the sake of the cause to achieve the goal, 5) avoid internal violence of the spirit as well as external, physical violence, and 6) the universe is on the side of justice. The first principle resonated with me the most because it teaches that nonviolence does not mean passivity or cowardice, but is actually an active resistance to injustice. It takes a lot of inner, mental strength to confront injustice and not react with violence. To me, real courage is having love for all people, even your opponents, while still standing up for what you believe is right (like Dr. King did). Nonviolence teaches us to attack unjust institutions and systems, not the individuals who carry out the injustices that results from these institutions.

The trip so far has been incredibly eye-opening. I have met so many wonderful, brave, and kind people here that are standing up for what they know is right. I have also loved getting to know everyone in our ASB group from Wake Tech. We have a very open-minded group and have learned a lot from each other and the other program leaders. I am very grateful for this opportunity and am looking forward to the rest of the week!

They do not talk about this in the history books…

Shocked, eager, uncomfortable, numb, grateful, and inspired are the main six emotions to describe my first day in Selma, Alabama. To firsthand witness segregation and extreme poverty in person is what brought on these simple yet strong emotions. When groups like “Black Lives Matter” or any group trying to acknowledge a racial issue, you’ll   see some of the blog websites and news stations saying stuff like, “this group is dividing our country” or “your beliefs are what causes division.” NEWS FLASH: There are actual parts of our country that are segregated AND have been segregated. You can’t do something that is already done. We also should not speak on subjects we are ignorant and uneducated about. Watching and actually Selma are two TOTALLY DIFFERENT things. It is absolutely mind-boggling on the impact of visiting Selma in person.

On the other hand, there are people who are trying to unite our country here in Selma. There are parents who have sacrificed their jobs, time, and effort to be a helping hand in the community. There are also the kids of these parents who have stories of what they’ve been through for doing what is humanely right that are breathtaking and inspirational. THIS is what exactly MLK fought for, just like him they are fighting the injustices and inequalities of America, I am bless to have this opportunity to have been able to witness what I miss and experienced what I am experiencing.

First Impressions

IMG_20160321_153713At first glance Selma, Alabama looks like any other small town. Perhaps a little forgotten and quiet but after spending time with some of it residents there is so much more to discover. Coming from living in such highly populated and diversified cities, such as that of New York City and Raleigh, I never imagine that the words “racism” and specially “segregation” truly existed anymore. After hearing some of the stories the volunteers of the Freedom Fighters shared with us along with the cold hard facts of the history of Selma I learned that to this day Selma schools were indeed segregated primarily due to income and choice. Several white families did not want to be integrated and believe this action would taint their culture and heritage and as such they pulled their kids out of the public school system and created their own all-white private schools. To make matters worst there is an all-white country club that requires members to provide a picture and family heritage when applying, thus the board members can easily identify and deny membership to all African-American and minorities.  The list goes on and on such as the monument dedicated to the confederate flag and Nathan Bedford, the founder of the Ku Klux Klan; the division of the town into West, the White and rich, and the East, the African-Americans and the poor; and the migration of 10,000 white individuals out of Selma due to their inability to accept having, for the first time ever, a black City Mayor.

WelcomeThis day was filled with so many emotions and disbeliefs, mainly because I could not understand how one kind of individual could hate another due to their skin color. Although today was very saddening I still have hope for I know there are hundreds of people that believe Selma can change and progress for the better, and this situation is only a temporary setback.

 

Meet our 2015 ASB Team!

GermanGerman Avila is a twenty year old International Student, originally from Colombia, South America. He is expected to graduate from Wake Tech by the Fall semester of 2016. He has been exposed to the medical field and community service throughout his life due to his family’s involvement. For this reason, German has decided to pursue a nursing degree. Martin Luther King is one of the most influential human rights activists there has been , one site German must see is the famous Lincoln Memorial where Dr. King Gave his “I have a Dream Speech”.

JessJessica Bundy is a journalism/communications major and will be graduating from Wake Tech this year. She is excited about coming on the trip because she wants the opportunity to learn something new and to focus on the reality of hunger and homelessness. Jessica attending Spring Break in NYC last year and really enjoyed meeting people and learning a different side of poverty.

 

JeremyJeremy Bryan is in the transfer program at Wake Technical Community college studying to get an associates of science degree. After graduating from Wake Tech in May 2017, he wants to get a BA in Biology and proceed from there to work on a Masters in Nutrition. On the trip he expects to help a lot of people that need help by doing his part in making their lives easier even if it’s not directly. He’d like to go to the Smithsonian, as well as the Holocaust museum, and if Barack is home maybe he can talk the secret service into letting him grab one of DC’s famous “Half Smokes” with us!

JasmeenJasmeen Kaur is an Associates of Science major who is planning on graduating in December 2015. She is most looking forward to the trip to D.C. in order to make friends, explore DC while helping homeless and hungry people. One must thing she would like to do beside helping people is visiting some of places like White house, Lincoln memorial or Washington monument.

 

ChadChad Kibbe is a Student Ambassador at Wake Tech Community College. He is getting his Associate of Arts degree and transferring to NC State University to get his bachelor’s degree in the College of Natural Resources. He will be graduating in 2018. Chad hopes to gain a greater appreciation for what he has and gain the ability to look at life from a different perspective upon serving those that are in greater need of help and service. Along with helping and serving others that are less fortunate, Chad is especially looking forward to visiting the Smithsonian Museum and the Holocaust Museum

AsiaAsia King is working towards her Associate of Arts degree and will be graduating from Wake Tech in December of 2015. Asia volunteers at the Wilmington Street Men’s Shelter and is the Secretary for Phi Beta Lambda here at Wake Tech. She is looking forward to meeting amazing individuals and hearing all of their stories. Her biggest goal while on the trip is to gain a better understanding of the challenges homeless individuals face so that she is better able to assist the homeless community wherever she goes. Asia refuses to leave D.C until she visits Good Stuff Eatery, a restaurant in Capitol Hill.

SarahSarah Elizabeth Grey Kirkland is a Dental Hygiene major who plans on graduating in June 2016. She is hoping to better understand not just how to temporally help someone who experiences hunger and homelessness but instead to find long term solutions. She would like to find a way to place homeless men and woman into jobs that will sustain their living suspense and how to find them places to shower, wash their clothes and prep them for a career until they can find a permanent residence of their own. She absolutely wishes to get see the cathedral or go dancing in D.C.

 

JoscelynJoselyn Ramirez-Mendoza is a Baking and Pastry Arts major who plans on graduating in May 2017. She is looking forward to the knowledge and experience that she will gain with this trip. She does not consider this trip a vacation but considers this as the opportunity to make a small difference in our country. She is truly looking forward to meeting new people and more importantly, getting to know on a personal level the real issues of homelessness. She is such a museum goer but if she had to narrow it down she would choose the Smithsonian museum of American History and the Holocaust museum.

 

BiancaBianca Olivares is an optimist who is very enthusiastic about her studies. She will be graduating from Wake Tech this upcoming May 2015 and will be transferring to Meredith College. Bianca plans to major in Psychology and continue on to graduate school to eventually become a Clinical Child Psychologist.  Bianca is mostly looking forward to experiencing a new perspective of life and learning another way in which to help other people and is planning to share this with others in hopes of spreading awareness and involvement. One thing she must do in D.C. is mainly just explore the area and make memories with great people.

AtifAtif Rafique wants to get his bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry from UNC Chapel Hill. He will be graduating from Wake Tech in the spring of 2015. The main goal of this trip is to learn about the problems homeless people are facing in our communities. He is looking forward to a great learning experience.

 

 

BaleighBaleigh Scheibner is in the Associate in Arts program and is hoping to graduate in May 2016 and transfer to NC State for Mass Communications.  Baleigh is looking forward to serving others by  giving up her spring break to help the homeless and those in need in Washington D.C. She hopes to gain a better understanding of our country and the need to help those around instead of just passing life by. Her must do thing in Washington would definitely be to go see the memorials especially the Holocaust Museum Memorial!

TravisTravis Suite is a second semester freshman and plans on graduating in 2018. He is planning is current plan is to major in Political Science from Appalachian State University. Travis most looks forward to meeting and talking with people and hearing their stories. He hopes to get a chance to meet the President of the United States, although unlikely. If that does not work out, Travis will be just as excited to get to explore D.C. and visit famous memorials.