A Trip Through History During Winter Break
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Some students at the College at Brockport
found out just what "inter-disciplinary learning" means over their winter break. The students got their heads out of the textbooks and into the real world to learn some life lessons.
There were twelve students from freshman to seniors.
"I thought it would be a manual labor trip to clean up a cemetery," said Robert Rua, a Brockport sophomore. "And it turned into being something so much more."
They left Rochester for their winter break and headed to Memphis.
"It turned into such an educational experience and got everyone excited about learning," Rua said.
Professor Dale Hartnett teaches protest and public opinion at the College at Brockport. For the first time he got the kids out of the classroom and into the South to learn about the civil rights movement up close.
"There were untold stories all throughout this world that need some recognition," said Edwin Cordero, a Brockport freshman.
Stories like the sanitation strike made an impact on freshman David Babb.
"We read the book going down, Jerico Road," said Babb. "But when I actually saw it I understood what they were facing and how they felt about it, that was real emotion for me."
For senior Cassandra Johns, it was meeting civil rights leaders, the very men who marched with Martin Luther King Jr.
"They were some of the most intelligent people I've ever heard," Johns said. "I've learned a lot about what they said. Sitting in classrooms I don't think I've heard stories that were as good as that."
The students visited the International Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel where Dr. King was assassinated.
"We went to the Mason Temple," said Carolyn McMemenon, a Brockport junior. "That's the place where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his final speech. We were all able to stand on the exact podium that he did. That was incredible to stand where he did."
But without a doubt, visiting the 16-acre Zion Cemetery was the highlight of the trip.
"It has some of the leading Civil Rights movements," said Rua. "Some of the people who started the Baptist Churches, who founded the black communities in Memphis, all the way back to former slaves."
Located in the heart of Memphis, Zion Cemetery was abandoned in the 70s and is now completely overgrown.
"And so we rolled the tree off of it and after about ten minutes of pushing we finally flipped the headstone over that was half way underground," said Rua. "It turned out to be AJ Buckner, who founded the Antioch Baptist Church in 1896."
"A lot of people asked us,'why are you guys cleaning a cemetery?' They don't know what they have there," Babb said. "Because I can bet there are places here in Rochester that people don't know about."
For these students it wasn't just a lesson in learning, but in life.
"I think everyone has a mission to go and explore outside their community," Johns said. "And see what's behind closed doors."