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Spotlight at Ile Omode

Middle School's College Tour
Ile Omode Middle School Students Visit Spelman, Morehouse, and Tuskegee

First Atlanta/Alabama College Tour in April, 2010

Booker T. Washington's Statue
Students on Tuskegee's campus

Ile Omode's middle school students left Oakland for a college and historic tour in Atlanta, Tuskegee and Birmingham. After spending months raising money and studying Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and the writings of Booker T. Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the long awaited trip to the south couldn't come soon enough. Their previous years' trip to Washington, DC only heightened the anticipation [see the DC trip's website].

The student's schedule, beginning with a red eye flight on Sunday evening, April 18, would have challenged President Barack Obama's scheduling secretary. Upon arrival the students had their first "southern" meal at Gladys Knight and Ron Winans Chicken and Waffles (where they met Tommy Ford of "Martin" fame), and their last meal at Straits, Ludacris' Atlanta restaurant, where they were treated with great affection by Ludacris' mom.

In between the restaurants they visited Spelman College, Morehouse College, Clark Atlanta University, and Tuskegee University; among historic sites, the visits to Dr. King's Center, the Tuskegee Airmen Museum, Dr. George Washington Carvers Museum, and the Birmingham Civil Rights Museum were inspiring. The students had a chance to unwind and enjoy some of Atlanta's entertainment, including the Coca-Cola complex, a great Atlanta Braves game, shopping at the Underground, roller skating at Cascades, and a local dance production hosted by the Salvation Army courtesty of a Wo'se member now living in Atlanta.

It was an incredible trip, but hardly free. In order to fund the trip the students were enrolled in a course, "Stocks and Capitalism" to prepare them to launch a business this year. After examining the disparities in cocoa harvesting and chocolate production they decided to form a choclate candy business, specializing in products from Divine, a West African cooperative. The venture proved fruitful, and through it the students raised over $2,000 to fund their trip. They developed a business plan, designed postcards and business cards in their graphics design class, and created a very successful sales plan.

They were no less involved in the trip's planning; from developing the itinerary to negotiating hotel rates. But they were happiest when a chaperone was able to convince the rental company to upgrade them from a minivan to a black SUV. Well, actually the girl were happiest, the boys were "stuck" in the minivan, and seeing the black SUV trailing them from the rear window of the minivan, it always felt as if the "feds" were trailing them.

Girls touring Spelman College
Maia, Sennua, Ammar, Zenzile, Aminah, and KaRa

Students were excited about visiting the Atlanta University Center, and getting a tour of Morehouse, Spelman, and Clark Atlanta over a 2 day period. At Morehouse they were introduced to the "renaissance man"; a Morehouse man who is "well-dressed, well-spoken, well-traveled, well-read, and well-balanced". Tajiri, a 6th grader, said he, "learned alot, especially from the college tours". He was impressed by the students' dress at Morehouse, and said, "they show you how to be a man."

On Thursay, April 22, the students dressed early and hit the road at 7:30 am en route to Alabama. Atlanta is in a different time zone, so the group used the extra time to visit the Tuskegee Airmen Museum. They spent the remainder of the day at Tuskegee University and later in Birmingham. The Tuskegee guide was wonderful and the students left with a strong impression of the school. "It Seemed like eveybody was like a family" at Tuskegee, according to Aminah Muhammad (7th grader). Students visited Booker T. Washington's gravesite, the famous statue, the Dr. George Washington Carver, which was amazing, and ate lunch at the school's huge dining commons.

After leaving Tuskegee they journeyed to the Birmingham Civil Rights Museum, which provides one of the most striking stories on the civil rights battles. They later observed the 16th Street Baptist Church, the site of the 1963 bombing when 4 young girls were killed.

Ammar, an 8th grade student with plans to become a dentist, was thrilled to learn that Tuskegee and Spelman have programs to prepare students for graduate study in dentistry. On Spelman's campus the middle school girls spoke with dozens of girls and it seemed as if nearly half were pre-med students, so Ammar would be in good company.

During the day the students toured historic sites and colleges, but the evenings were full of fun. They looked forward to rollerskating at Cascade, the skating rink featured in the movie, "ATL", but the chaperones had to introduce them to some, "old school moves". While there were no true baseball fans in the group, a visit to Turner Stadium and a night game featuring the Atlanta Braves against the Philadelphia Phillies, proved more entertaining than anyone expected - or more likely it was the peanuts and popcorn candy.

On their last evening in Atlanta everyone dressed up for a dance show and dinner. They took in a dance performance, "Kirikou and the Sorceress", at the Salvation Army, whose community director, Mama Ikenna Coulter, is a former Ile Omode parent. After the show they headed to "Straits", and while they were just two days short of meeting Ludacris who happened to be in town, they were treated wonderfully by his mom. The girls peppered her with questions about Ludacris, and she was the epitome of the gracious host - even providing the rather large dining party to free appetizers and dessert. The Southeast Asian cuisine was different for the students, but they enjoyed their meal immensely.

It was a wonderful trip, and increased their awareness of college enrollment, campus life, and gave them a chance to interact with some of the people and events that until now, they had only experienced in their textbooks.

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