Day 4 was packed full, still we had an amazing experience!
Our fist stop was Georgetown University, the nation’s oldest Catholic and Jesuit University, established in 1789. Youth and chaperones alike were impressed by the beautiful 18th century architecture and overall layout and landscaping of this university. All the original building have been so well preserved, “it feels like we walked into a time-machine and traveled to the past”, noted a student during our guided tour. Everyone loved the beauty and aesthetic of the campus. However, what was most impressive were the number of prestigious programs and schools this university has to offer. With renowned business and medical schools, its own hospital, emergency medical technician (EMT) services, and police department, GU offers wonderful opportunities to all the students who attend. Our tour guide, Avery, shared with us everything she knew about her beloved institution and consistently reminded us that although GU is founded on Jesuit values, they provide students with a world-class learning experience focused on educating the whole person through exposure to different faiths, cultures and beliefs. Although it was raining for most of this visit, College Tour youth were eager to get the experience in, despite the weather.
Next stop was Howard University, a private, research HBCU comprised of 13 schools that, over the years, has produced a high percentage of the nation’s professionals in the fields of medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, engineering, nursing, architecture, religion, law, music, social work and education. Many of our College Tour youth had been really looking forward to this visit since we left Fort Lauderdale. During our tour, our guides led a quick introduction/icebreaker and asked youth to share their names and their desired college major. Sisters Daija and Danaija Harden (17) both shared their names, that they wanted to go to law school, and that they would be going “here at Howard in two years.” In talking to them a bit more about their desire to attend this institution, these confident twins shared that it has been their dream to come here and that being on campus really “made it real” for them, “we will make it, we will be blessed to come to HU, and HU will be lucky to have us! (smiling)” But these sisters were not the only ones talking about attending HU after graduation, in fact, as the tour went on, more and more youth appeared more interested and excited with the idea of becoming HU Bisons! Our guides and the students who stopped to share their experiences as we toured campus noted that they are proud to be students at this institution, that HU has helped them grow in ways they never imagined, and that they really enjoy student life and all the services and resources that Howard has to offer. Before we left Howard we made a quick stop at the bookstore for youth to find some HU gear to take back home and remind them to continue to push and work hard to get to their dreams.
After touring colleges we had the privilege and blessing of visiting the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in the National Mall. This museum, which is not even a year old, is the only museum in the National Mall for which you must purchase a Timed-Ticket which gives you very specific guidelines on when you will be able to attend. It took our director, 3 months to get an answer from the museum in regards to our tickets! Thanks to Ms. Boyd’s resilience and some great luck, all 51 of us were able to experience one of the most powerful 2.5 hours of our lives. We went back in time to learn form the past, from our ancestors, from the mistakes and horrors of some, and the resilience, love and community of our people. Like the Sankofa, a very powerful adinkra symbol originally created by the Ashanti in Africa, this form of “time-travel” allows us to learn from our past in our moving towards the future–so we can continue to build up from where we came from. The entire experience was memorable and empowering despite the painful past it described. Many of us cried and let our emotions out–it was real and raw. In the end, we all were happy to celebrate our past and the people that came before us. Youth were moved by the exhibits and actively engaged in discussions about their history and the leaders and brave men and women that have paved the way for them to be where they are–they appreciated their past. The experience of this museum reminds us that, like our ancestors, we can’t stop. So we won’t stop, until we get to our dreams. This entire experience served as an inspiration for all of us.
Finally, we finished our day at the mall, where we had dinner, debriefed the day’s experiences with peers, socialized, and did some fun shopping. Even in activities like these that are less structured, the College Tour seizes the educational opportunities by giving youth important responsibilities like, staying in groups, looking out for each other, being respectful and arriving at the meeting location on time, and most importantly, being accountable for their actions. This practice of independence is great to build up on as they prepare for college, and more leisurely activities like the visits to the Museums and the Mall allow for this important practice. I am happy to say that all youth excelled and our experience at the mall was great overall.
Now on day 5, we are all experiencing the bitter-sweetness of the last full day of the 2017 College Tour. Still, youth are extremely excited to continue to learn and grow from these experiences and bringing everything they’ve learned back home. There, youth will continue to work towards their goals of going to colleges and universities like the ones we visited on this tour. Now more knowledgeable and aware of the processes and requirements, youth will be better equipped to successfully pursue their dreams. And we, at the YMCA and the College Tour truly believe they are well on their way!
Keep following us for a recap of our sightseeing guided tour and our visit D.C.’s historical Anthony Bowen YMCA. It is Day 5, but the 2017 College Tour is not over yet!