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Date Posted:May 7,2004

My College Tour
by: Tanika Harper

I stood near a podium in the middle of a very tiny church in St Helena South Carolina. Not much wider than a doghouse, it stood with 5 benches, a bible and a lamp. It smelled of old garments and burning candles, but it gave me a feeling of joy because I knew that at this moment I was learning a lot and seeing with my own eyes what the African and African American culture was all about.

Here, on a former plantation on St. Helena Island, off the coast of South Carolina is where the African American College tour began that I participated in. The Teen Lift Tour of 2004, which was sponsored by the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Brooklyn Alumnae Chapter, took place on Sunday February 15th - 19th. The teen lift program was to encourage students who are applying for college to think of applying to historically black colleges. Juniors and Seniors of Brooklyn and Queens New York had a chance to visit North Carolina Central University, Shaw University, Savannah State University, Fort Valley University and Florida A&M University.

Witnessing a place where my own ancestors would secretly pray for life to get easier and for them to belong. It was also a place where slave owners used to watch over them and still control their minds by controlling what was being said in the church. "When they took shackles off of there feet they put shackles on their minds," was the way Ms. Seretha M. Tuttle- the tour guide, described it.

Teen lifters also got a chance to visit Penn State Gullah Island- St Helena Island. Penn State was started in 1862 and was one of the first schools for freed slaves. It taught African American students how to become teachers, blacksmiths, carpenters, and how to gain auto-mechanic skills. Inside there were pictures of slaves and their children. There were monuments of a grass collection plate and a corn shuck doormat, made by some of the students. At Penn State we met Mr. Robert Middleton, who was a student of Penn State in 1948.

This had a profound effect on me because it was something I had never experienced and it made me feel closer to my ancestors than ever before. The pictures of the slaves on the cotton fields and the slave families were depressing to me because I knew they were unhappy working there. But it made me realize that I have to work hard for whatever I want and to always have faith in myself. Just like how my ancestors had faith that in years to come the world would be equal, which has been happening for about 30 years.

Penn State was also a retreat, training and planning site for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian leadership Conference. Across the street from the school stood Dr Martin Luther King's house where he wrote the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. “It's shocking, unbelievable, your heart stops," said Noelle Flores of Queens, one of the teen lifters as she walked onto the damp soil of the plantation, indulging in her surroundings and seeing such a site with her own eyes. The weather was cold and cloudy, relating to way the place made us feel.

But the trip didn't stop there. The white snow on the grass of the campus made the huge campus of NCCU beautiful. It was filled with green trees and tall buildings. Teen lifters met Mr. Micheal Bailey, the Assistant Director of the campus. He talked about the school; giving the teen lifters a little inspiration through experiences he had himself at the time he was applying to colleges. He also gave us advice about how to take advantage of our educational opportunities when we get there. "It is important to take advantage of classes that teach you how to study, work on computers, and you should also get involved with extracurricular activities when you get to college." said Mr. Bailey.

A number of activities provided for the students on the campus are a Museum, Student Union, Bowling Alley, Book Store, Game Room, and Horseback Riding. There's a basketball team and the Football team among other sports teams on the campus.

Some big events that take place on campus are Fashion shows and Step shows. Carl Jackson, one of the tour guides, gave us a few suggestions to take time management classes as a freshman on campus so that we can learn how to manage school, work, and friends. We learned that in order to graduate from the school you have to have 120 community service credits, doing at least 15hrs a semester.

As I stepped onto the campus of the second college we visited, Shaw University in Raleigh Georgia, the first thing I noticed was the church in the middle of the campus. It was said that it is mandatory for freshmen to go to church. Shaw University, a very small campus, is the oldest black college in the south. This was very different from the colleges in New York City because in NYC the school populations are very high and the college campuses are big with no churches in the middle.

On Tuesday February 17th we visited Savannah State University, which, is a beautiful campus in Savannah, Georgia. What made the campus beautiful was the huge football field they had and design of Styrofoam cups outlining the name of the college. We had a chance to eat in the cafeteria with SVU students experiencing the college life, "college food and college people." Savannah State has a round-shaped library building with a variety of works of African literature where professors from all over the United States go to read.

To relax our minds, were welcomed at the home of the parents of one of the sorority sisters, Mrs. Shari Day Phillips. There, we ate dinner and Mr. and Mrs. Day shared the experiences they had at Savannah State University when they attended as students. They also encouraged us to never give up and to take advantage of all the educational opportunities that are being offered to us because they want to see us succeed.

The weather was beautiful as we stepped on the campus of Florida A&M University on Wednesday February 18th. The campus was stunning and the students seemed friendly and alive. It was a very sunny day so it made everything seem perfect. We ate in the cafeteria with some students that attended the university.

FAMU caught the attention of many teen lifters the most, because it seemed so live. Students were in there cars jamming to music as they drove out of the parking lots. Our tour guide Morgan Long mentioned some of the fun events that happen on campus. B out day is a day where there’s music, food, and giveaways and there’s Gospel Extravaganza where there's singing and dancing. Relay for Life is where students run for community service to raise money for a cure for cancer. Some fun things mentioned to us are free hip-hop aerobics, yoga, and women's night.

In the library there's a media center and a T.V station. The class sizes in the school are from 18-20. Some advice given by the tour guide Ms. Long was to, "get involved with the career center if you attend the college because it helps you develop your resume, and helps you get a job and internships."
While on campus we visited the Black Archives Research Center/ Museum.

I was disappointed as the trip came to an end but still grateful that I made the journey because I learned a lot about my African culture while meeting new people and visiting some of the top colleges in the United States of America. My parents have always told me that you don’t know where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been. I know it’s an old saying but knowing about your past can help you make important decisions about your present and future. I would never take back this wonderful experience and I encourage teenagers to visit some of the sites we've visited so that they could obtain information that is not being given to us in textbooks. What we need to do is enlighten our minds because our mind is something no one can ever take away from us.

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