On December 4, six College of Liberal Arts students and I traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in the Appalachian Teaching Project symposium. Over ten years old, ATP is a program of the Appalachian Regional Commission, a federal-state partnership begun in 1964 as a way to address issues related to poverty in the region. The idea and organizing principles of ATP are brilliant: Each of the sixteen participating colleges receive a small grant for travel to the conference, where students speak for 15 minutes on a community project they have been working on as part of a course and in collaboration with a community association or organization. No faculty can speak (hooray!), so the experience becomes a significant professional development opportunity for the students who participate.
Abigail Bullinger, McKenzie Huggins, Gabrielle Lamplugh, Lowery McNeal, Sara Parrish, and Corey Spicer worked in collaboration with the Tuskegee Human & Civil Rights Multicultural Center to design, implement, and evaluate a camp for children—Macon County History and Culture Camp. On September 28, twenty-one young people from Macon and Lee counties participated in the five-hour camp that led them through rotations on Booker T. Washington, Creek Indian culture, artist Isaac Scott Hathaway, Macon County Music, and the Civil Rights Movement. For twenty of the children, this was their first visit to the Multicultural Center.
While in D.C., students we had the great opportunity to tour the dome of the U.S. Capitol, thanks to Congressman Mike Rogers. Reservations for a Capitol Dome tour must be made well in advance, and a member of Congress accompanies each small group. Staff person Debby McBride helped make this possible, and we are thankful for the opportunity, especially since five days after our tour the dome will be closed for two years for repairs and maintenance. Over three hundred steps lead visitors to the top, but the view of the murals on the inside and the city on the outside, make the steps worth it.
We invited guests to join us for dinner each night, since we want to make the most of every opportunity to network and learn from others. Lissette Bishins of the Carpenter’s Shelter in Alexandria joined us to discuss the important issue of homelessness, and Amy Lazarus of the Institute for Sustained Dialogue joined us to discuss her work with the Sustained Dialogue Campus Network. Thanks to AU’s new Residence Life director Virginia Koch, Auburn will be the newest member of the network. The next night, Michael Chambers of the D.C. Humanities Council and Gregg Hammonds of the non-profit organization Guitars Not Guns joined us to discuss their work. Michael, who was a student at University of Alabama Birmingham and a program officer for the Alabama Humanities Foundation for a few years, gave us a great tour of historic U Street.
We are thankful to the College of Liberal Arts for providing support for student travel through the CLA-STAR Fund. ATP provides a unique opportunity for students throughout the region, and CLA helps make participation possible.