How many students have actually taken the time to read Messiah’s mission statement? If you’ve ever visited the Falcon, it’s hard to miss as it is clearly displayed on the wall: “Our mission is to educate men and women toward maturity of intellect, character and Christian faith in preparation for lives of service, leadership, and reconciliation in church and society.” For five Messiah students, this past summer provided them with the opportunity to fulfill the principles of Messiah’s mission while participating in a Civil Rights bus tour.
Jacob Edmunds, Jocelyn Chavous, Madilyn Keaton, Abigail Combs, Kenedy Kieffer and eight members of Messiah’s faculty all participated in a Civil Rights bus tour that took place in mid-June. This was the first year that students were invited to go on the trip.
“Messiah has participated in this bus tour for I want to say about eight years,” Kevin Villegas, the Director of Student Involvement and Leadership Programs said. “[Kim Phipps and I] both believed that it would be very meaningful if we sent some students on this trip as well, realizing how transformative it was for us.”
“Each summer, Messiah has committed to funding anywhere from three to eight employees to go on this tour,” Villegas continued. “I think we reached a point where we had enough employees who had gone on this experience that they were saying ‘this was such a rich experience, we want to do more with this.’”
Throughout the course of the bus tour, Messiah’s group of students and faculty, as well as individuals from other institutions, left from Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania and toured through several southern states including North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee. The group heard from several speakers and visited historical locations that were prominent during the Civil Rights movement including the Woolworth’s store where the Greensboro sit-ins took place in 1960.
“I realized most my ignorance during the trip because I got there and was like ‘wow, I know nothing about the Civil Rights movement,’” Combs said. “I think for me, it was really humbling to recognize how little I know. It also gave me a desire to know more. I think it was cool for me to realize ‘wow, I’m really ignorant,’ and I don’t know a lot, maybe I’m not as sensitive as I should be, and I do things wrong, but also I have an opportunity to learn, and that’s something I can control.”
“One of my biggest take-aways was seeing how the past connects to the present,” Chavous added. “For me, I can make connections to why there’s racial tensions today, why there’s push for rights, discrimination and why that all happened based on that one movement.”
Villegas, Combs and Chavous all recommend educating yourself to better understand the Civil Rights movement. Whether it’s watching movies, reading books or having difficult conversations with others, education serves as an opportunity to serve, lead and reconcile with others in society.
Chavous summed it up when she said, “I think for everyone to understand each other, it will help us progress to a better future.”
Alyssa is a junior journalism major who hails from the beautiful land of Grantham 1st.