ROCKINGHAM — More than 60 students from Richmond High School traveled to the International Civil Rights Center and Museum and North Carolina A&T State University in late April, bringing their African American Studies curriculum to life.
It was the first time for many students that they could enter a college outside of Richmond County, and specifically, a Historically Black College and University (HBCU).
“As a student looking to go to A&T, the tour gave me a sense of the college campus,” EJ Davis told the Richmond County Board of Education at their May meeting.
Davis said they were able to interact with the students during their three-hour tour of the college.
The RSHS African American Studies class was added as a very interesting class this school year to create some excitement in the post-pandemic curriculum and to mark the school’s 50th year, the principal said. Jim Butler.
Arthur Gilliam, the AAS course instructor, said the field trip was both a culmination and an extension of what he intended to accomplish with the course.
“It brings everything to life and comes full circle,” Gilliam said of students taking what they see in a textbook and translating it into real life. “It’s an extension because it goes outside the four walls of the school and creates relationships and communities beyond the classroom. That’s what makes this class as powerful as it is, because it’s a community.
Units on HBCUs and the civil rights movement in the classroom became more than mere footnotes during the field trip. Students were able to visit the Woolworth restaurant, which rejected the Greensboro sit-ins, a boost for nationwide protests against racial segregation.
Gilliam called the particular moment an “eye-opener” for the two busloads of students who went on the trip.
“Students are able to see themselves in the program and identify the experiences of people who are like them,” Gilliam said. “It’s an experience they can relate to. It is not immaterial.
About 10 of the students who went to Greensboro had already been accepted to A&T. Gilliam said some students who had never shown an interest in higher education noticed how the trip changed their minds about going to college.
Gilliam thanked Butler and the Board of Education for supporting the trip.
“Thank you and your team of teachers for giving these children this opportunity,” board member Ronald Tillman told Gilliam.
Board member Daryl Mason also mentioned how much the students appreciated the effort that made the trip possible. Superintendent Dr. Jeff Maples said the experience really opened the students up to the world.
“I can’t wait to see what you do in the future,” Tillman told Davis, Destiny Isler and William White, students who came to the board meeting.
Future plans for students in the African American Studies class include a presentation at the Leak Street Center for Juneteenth and a fun gathering in July just to catch up during the summer. The National Museum of African-American History & Culture in Washington, DC is another potential road trip.
Gilliam also added that he hopes to make the Black History: Celebration of the African Diaspora event bigger and better this year. The event, which featured students performing dances, songs, poems and essays, earned an encore performance at Leak Street Center after an initial performance at RSHS in February.
“It gets them excited about continuing their education beyond high school,” Gilliam said of the trip and the AAS class. “That’s my whole goal.”
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