2004-04-30 / Columnists

The RDRC Community Update

By Curtis Archer, Executive Director

The RDRC Community Update

By Curtis Archer, Executive Director

Once again RDRC’s Beacon Program at the Reverend Thomas Mason Community Center launched its 5th annual "Tour of Historical Black Colleges", 2004. In a word, "what a success!" Ms. Andrenna Gibson, the Beacon Program’s College/Career Counselor, made it possible for this year’s tour to be an "Educational Opportunity" for those students who are normally exposed to their culture and history at many of the Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). In addition, the Reverend Thomas Mason Community Ceter’s Youth Council provided a helping hand in making sure that the college tour kept on track.

The origin of RDRC’s first college tour began with a small group of kids visiting Lincoln University, in Pennsylvania, for the weekend in April of 1999. Members of the Reverend Thomas Mason Community Center’s Youth Council at that time sponsored several fundraisers to make the trip possible. Their efforts allowed approximately 35 youth and adults to tour and experience Lincoln University for a weekend. Today, the youth council has aided in the expansion of the college tour to a whole a week during the Easter/Passover holiday (spring recess). This year’s college tour included visits to thirteen (13) HBCU schools along the eastern seaboard. Starting their travels from New York with stops along the way to destinations in Atlanta, Georgia, students were treated to many different aspects of campus life, major areas of study, areas of interest and the beautiful, yet powerful rich history that each school utilized for structuring their unique position in the history of early America. The colleges and universities visited on this year’s tour were: Lincoln, Wilberforce, Tennessee State, Central State, Fisk, Clarke Atlanta, Spelman, Morehouse, North Carolina A&T, Meharry Medical, Cheaney, Morris Brown and Hampton.

Gibson, who was recently cited as a New York Newsday "Everyday Hero" and is a long time Rockaway resident, has continuously stressed the importance of higher education among the African-American youth. Her passion has been directed mainly toward the high school aged community, which she emphasizes, should be prepared for adulthood, the world of work and real life experiences. Moreover, at a HBCU the enrichment of African American history manifest the supportive services, thus providing the importance of diversity within the American experience. As Ms. Gibson explains, "each year is a different experience. The college tour gives all students the chance to participate and gain new experiences. Also, students who don’t have a high GPA and the student who may have behavioral problems or maybe even the students who have never really considered college are the main ones that we target for exposure and inclusion in this college tour. Ultimately, I believe there is hope in everyone." Ms. Gibson went on further to say, "in each instance, a student who graduates from one of these prestigious schools becomes a well rounded and proud individual who is able to compete in the workplace, graduate school and life."

Skipping ahead to the tour in Atlanta, students were eager and anticipating good things from what they heard from previous tours that Atlanta is "where it’s at". The schools visited were Morehouse, Spelman, Clarke Atlanta and Morris Brown University. All of these schools are a part of Atlanta’s University Center (AUC). All AUC schools are considered to be as one union but on separate scales. You can take classes in either school (i.e. Morehouse will allow you take classes at Clarke Atlanta and vice versa. There is one exception and that is Spelman College because it is an all girls’ university.

The highlight school of the tour was without a doubt Morris Brown University. A couple of years ago Morris Brown University had lost its accreditation that forced it to close temporarily. We couldn’t visit them as part of last year’s tour; this year however, things seem to be back on track as if the school never missed a beat. What made the experience at Morris Brown so special for the young students was that it was one of the featured schools in the hit movie, "Drum Line". The student participants got the chance to visit areas where different scenes had been shot for the movie. In addition, the Morris Brown student representative showed the students the Georgia Dome where the BET Classic was taped in the movie. And, out of the AUC schools, the Morris Brown campus stands at the highest point on ground in the area.

This is significant because Morris Brown University was a focal point and station stop for the "Underground Railroad".

With the success of this year’s college tour, we expect next year’s to be bigger and even more exciting for the high school participants.

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