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Immersed in history

Monday, January 23, 2023

Immersed in history

CVTC students travel south for civil rights knowledge

Image: Immersed in history

Students, staff and faculty from Chippewa Valley Technical College and UW-Eau Claire learn first-hand about the Civil Rights Movement by traveling to Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Missouri.

Lilith Hostetler knew she had gaps in her civil rights history knowledge.

She said those gaps were put on full display when she was able to take a civil rights pilgrimage earlier this month as a nursing student with Chippewa Valley Technical College.

“This trip … taught me so much,” she said. “It inspired me to do my own research into topics that I had never explored before. I feel a duty to pass this knowledge onto my spouse, children, friends and anyone else who will listen.”

The Civil Rights Pilgrimage is a trip taken most years by CVTC and UW-Eau Claire students. The trip was created by Jodi Thesing-Ritter, the university’s executive director for diversity and inclusion.

More than 30 students, instructors and staff traveled from January 6 through 16 via bus from Eau Claire to Little Rock, AR; Greenwood, Money, Oxford and Jackson, MS; Selma, Montgomery, Tuskegee, Atlanta and Birmingham, AL; Memphis, TN; St. Louis, MO; and back to Eau Claire.

Sergio Velasquez, CVTC Diversity Resources student specialist, said the trip is meant to provide students with an experience that goes beyond what they were exposed to in the classroom.

“The goal was to help them better grasp the severity of the never-ending struggle for human rights,” he said. “What we came back with was a team of empowered student leaders determined to educate their peers and use their voice to make changes in their communities.”

The group packed a lot into 10 days with trips to museums, Edmund Pettus Bridge, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the First Whitehouse of the Confederacy, Booker T. Washington’s home and so much more.

“This is an empowering and life-changing experience, and I’m so glad our two departments were able to take students on this trip,” said Jennifer Moua, TRIO director at CVTC. “The pilgrimage allowed our students to see true history with their own eyes, hear stories from living civil rights activists with their own ears, and stand on the grounds of sacred sites where Martin Luther King Jr. and many others marched for civil rights.”

Maxwell Huston, a business management student at CVTC, said this is his second trip on the pilgrimage, and he noticed that key information about the civil rights struggle has been left out of textbooks, websites and documentaries.

“This trip has changed me drastically,” he said. “I’m more appreciative of the things I do every day but that they struggled to do. And they never gave up.”

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