Civil Rights Pilgrimage earns prestigious award

Story by Taylor Kuether

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“Everyone’s the same, and we all deserve the same thing. [These people] went through pain and suffering just to gain their civil rights,” sophomore Alycia Dziedzic said when explaining all she’d learned from her recent road trip.

From Jan. 8-18, Dziedzic, along with other UW-Eau Claire students and faculty on the Civil Rights Pilgrimage, traveled through the American South to experience monuments and museums dedicated to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

While the trip is affiliated with the Women’s Studies department, registration for the pilgrimage was open to all students. This is the program’s fourth year running but the first of its affiliation with the Women’s Studies department.

“We spent a week in class with them prior to the trip to lay some intellectual groundwork before we went on the trip,” said Jodi Thesing-Ritter, the Associate Dean of Students and one of the trip’s coordinators. She said that because many students on the trip had already experienced class time with one another, the relationships forged were positive, and the trip went even more smoothly than ever before.

The ten-day road trip, beginning in Atlanta, Ga. and finishing in Memphis, Tenn., featured seven cities and five Southern states and exposed students to Southern culture. They had the opportunity to try traditional dishes like gumbo and jambalaya, and there was an optional swamp tour in New Orleans, as well as tours of other historical sites. The group stopped at Martin Luther King Junior’s birth place in Atlanta, Ga. and the Rosa Parks Memorial Museum and Library in Montgomery, Ala., to name just a few of the locations visited.

“The museums, the tour guides, the locals, the culture, the fun . it was all simply amazing,” senior Marci Korb wrote on the pilgrimage blog. “I couldn’t believe how much of the information we received was firsthand information. We were talking to people who were there, in the thick of it, fighting for equality. It really made me, and everyone else, realize that one person can make a difference.”

Senior Sarah Gonzalez said her favorite part of the trip was when the group met with a panel of students at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.

“It was really powerful for our students to see people their own age doing some really significant work in such diverse areas, and I think it helped them realize the power of the individual and that they, as individuals,ÿcan have a huge impact on the world,” she said.

Gonzalez was one of three students that helped to organize the trip. Thesing-Ritter said student coordinators Gonzalez and seniors Anthony Och and Ann Watson played an integral part in planning the pilgrimage.

This year, the program received an award: the Celebration of Diversity Award from the Region IV-East division of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators.

“The award was designated for an outstanding diversity program, so our university and pilgrimage were very fortunate to have this honor. Hopefully, this award will help keep this immersion experience a success for the future,” Gonzalez said.

The next Civil Rights Pilgrimage is scheduled during spring break, March 26 to April 4. Students may register for the trip in the Student Senate Office in the Davies Center.

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