Cedar Shoals field trip

Cedar Shoals High School students attend the lynching memorial at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama. (Courtesy Katie Baker Johnson)

After successfully raising enough funds to go on a Black History Month field trip in early April, the students of Cedar Shoals High School peer leadership class were able to see what they’ve learned this year come to life.

Forty-six students traveled to Montgomery and Birmingham, Alabama, during the weekend of April 5 to visit historic civil rights memorial sites and museums, and less than 10 of them had to pay for the trip. By raising funds on GoFundMe, the trip didn’t cost most students a dime.

Most of the students in the peer leadership class had never been to Alabama and some had never left Athens. Many students said they will hold memories of bonding with each other on the bus and in the hotels and would love to go again.

“When we were in the hotels, we made lots of memories together, and seeing everyone bond together was really fun,” sophomore Taylor Jones said.

They visited the Equal Justice Initiative Legacy Museum, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice to learn about the history of slavery and racial violence in Alabama that coincides with what they’ve learned in their class.

“A topic like lynching might be mentioned once in the U.S. history standards, so it’s kind of crazy that they had to go to Alabama to figure out a lot of the stuff that happened here in Georgia,” said Katie Baker Johnson, the teacher of the peer leadership class.

The students are required to work on a presentation all year about identifying an issue within their community that they wanted to address, and the trip coordinated with what they learned about leadership.

“In Birmingham, we learned how civil rights activists were speaking out about certain things, and one thing I learned in here was that standing up for something I believe in is important,” junior Sylvan Wyatt said.

Although the trip was heavy with history in relation to racial violence, Johnson recalls her favorite memory of the trip was when they took a tour at Samford University and dined with the institution’s black fraternity.

Johnson said she would like to thank the community for giving the students an experience they will never forget.

“This trip made me realize that if you want to see a change, don’t expect someone else to do it. If you want to help it all starts with you,” junior Erica Ruballos said.

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