J-D senior makes civil connections

Senior Amy Miller captured the attention of the Jamesville-DeWitt Board of Education at its first meeting of the year Jan. 5. She relayed her experience from last June as a program participant of The Civil Rights Connection (CRC), a non-profit organization in which Jamesville-DeWitt High School has been a part for 10 years. Founded by former New York State Sen. Nancy Larraine Hoffmann in 1996, its purpose is to educate and enlighten students about the nonviolence movement.

"I traveled to Mississippi and Louisiana to witness living history," Miller said. "And built connections with people whom I never met before."

Only six students were chosen to partake in the journey south last spring -- the smallest group in the history of the program -- and they included not only Miller representing J-D, but also kids from Canastota, Oneida, West Genesee and Cazenovia. JDHS history teacher Tom Bennett chaperoned.

"What I really enjoyed about the trip was being able to experience the history firsthand instead of just reading it in a textbook," Miller said. "It was empowering to me to hear stories of such bravery."

James Meredith, the first African-American to attend the University of Mississippi, and Bill Lee, a 63-year-old white man who was a senior in high school at the time of the desegregation, were among the people the CRC group met in person.

Additionally, the trip allowed for a breakdown in stereotypes. While the CRC kids had their own ideas about southerners, two boys they met held beliefs of their own pertaining to people from the north.

"Both stereotypes proved to be false," Miller said. "We really enjoyed their company and still keep in touch today."

The last part of the trip involved service learning, where the kids helped with Hurricane Katrina cleanup.

Approximately 35 JDHS juniors have taken part in this program over the last decade.

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