On our last full day of the 2017 College Tour we were all experiencing the bitter-sweetness of this wonderful journey coming to an end. Still, youth were extremely excited to continue to learn and grow from all they experienced and to bring everything they learned back home. But College Tour education and development don’t only come form the visits to Universities and other academic engagements, rather, on the College Tour, every moment becomes a teachable one. And our youth practice their college-readiness skills every step of the way: from being responsible, organized, working well in teams, listening and following direction, to taking initiative, communicating effectively, recognizing when mistakes have been made, and finding solutions. That is the beauty of this experience–every moment matters–every smile, every frown, every question, every bit of information, every late wake up, every celebration, and every moment of joy. That is what the College Tour is all about!
Day 5 was about enjoying the beautiful sights of Washington D.C. With our wonderful tour guide, Dr. Yohannes Zeleke, we visited historical landmarks and locations, markers of moments and people in history that made an impact in this country and the world, whose legacy these youth can learn from and continue to build on. This sight sightseeing tours, like the one on Day 1, remind College Tour youth that we are all standing on the shoulders of giants–the great leaders that came before us. And that it is their legacy that we need to learn from in order to build the world we want to see for the future. Our morning started at St. John’s Church, where President Abraham Lincoln spent time weekly, reflecting and praying; next, we drove down the main road where all the U.S. Agencies and Institutions (including the USDA, FBI, Homeland Security, and many more) house their main offices, and visited the Capitol building, which sits directly across the White House on the opposite end of this street. After the Capitol, we went to the Jefferson Memorial which oversees much of the National Mall across the Potomac River–many youth pointed out the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Monument, which we had visited on Day 1. Finally, we visited locations that pay homage to service men and women and people who have lost their lives in battle or due to horrible acts of inhumanity: the Air Force Memorial and the Pentagon’s 9/11 Memorial. Both of these locations reminded us that people have lived and died for this country and for our future. We stood solemnly at these locations to pay our respects to the lives lost. At the end of our tour, Dr. Yohannes reminded youth that they are the writers of their own story and that their story can be written however they desire. So he encouraged youth to take the writing of their stories very seriously, as it direct the path towards their dreams and their future, as well as the way people remember them and their legacy.
After lunch we visited the local, and historical, YMCA Anthony Bowen. Founded in 1853, YMCA Anthony Bowen was the first YMCA open to African-Americans in the world. Inspired by his friend William Chauncey Langdon, founder of the YMCA of the City of Washington, Anthony Bowen, a slave who had bought his own freedom, was committed to the advancement of African-Americans in social, educational, and religious respects. Today, YMCA Anthony Bowen serves a very diverse membership yet still maintains the roots and the legacy of Anthony Bowen as key aspects of their Y identity. Displayed throughout the site, artistic visuals including pictures, quotes, portraits, and historic timelines, help patrons learn and understand the history of this YMCA and its importance to D.C. and its rich African American culture. When we arrived, the branch’s executive director and sports director greeted us and welcomed our large group to their beautiful family center. To our surprise, they had a full afternoon of fun physical activities planned for us; so we broke into groups and rotated in the practice of dance, spinning, and rock-climbing. We all had a blast! After we had all completed our exercise for the day, our hosts took us on a tour of the location and shared with us some of the history of this branch, its founder, and their present President and CEO, the 1st African American woman to get that position in the organization. In the end we got to wind down at the branch’s beautiful roof-top space as we waited for our bus. Our hosts were amazing and we had a wonderful time!
As this experience comes to an end, 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!