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UW-Eau Claire Students to Join in Civil Rights Pilgrimage in January 2009

RELEASED: Oct. 21, 2008

2008 Civil Rights Pilgrimage image
UW-Eau Claire students visited this memorial and other historical sites throughout the South during the university's first Civil Rights Pilgrimage in spring 2008. Due to the success of that first trip, two pilgrimages will be offered during 2009, one during Winterim break in January and the other during spring break in March.

EAU CLAIRE — Fifty-six University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire students and staff members will spend their 2009 Winterim break on a Civil Rights Pilgrimage, visiting sites of historic importance to the U.S. civil rights movement.

The Jan. 9-20, 2009, trip will include stops at the birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr. in Atlanta; the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham, Ala.; the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Ala.; the Community Bakery and Central High School in Little Rock, Ark.; and the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tenn.

"This year's pilgrimage is going to be an amazing opportunity for students to learn more about the civil rights movement," said junior Sarah Gonzalez, a psychology major from Sheboygan. "They will gain insight on the diversity of our world by experiencing different cultural backgrounds firsthand. I assisted in arranging the trip last year, and it was one of the most eye-opening and rewarding experiences I've ever had.

"We are dedicated to raising awareness about racism and discrimination in today's society, while expanding personal knowledge of the historical events surrounding the civil rights movement. This pilgrimage will give the students an excellent chance to step out of their usual boundaries and view society in a different light."

The $300 trip fee includes transportation, lodging and tours. Students can register starting Nov. 10 in the Student Senate office, Room 132, Davies Center. A $75 deposit is required at registration. Registration will continue until spots are filled.

The civil rights journey is partially funded through a gift from the Juedes-Molinaro Family Foundation to the UW-Eau Claire Foundation, said Jodi Thesing-Ritter, associate dean of students and one of the trip's organizers.

"Providing all UW-Eau Claire students with an immersion experience is among the goals of UW-Eau Claire's new strategic plan, known as the centennial plan," Thesing-Ritter said. "The Civil Rights Pilgrimage is a model for the kinds of experiences that we hope will soon be standard for all our students. We're working with the UW-Eau Claire Foundation to increase the money available to help fund these kinds of experiences."

About 50 UW-Eau Claire students made a similar pilgrimage in March. (See a blog with archived student accounts of the March trip and that also will include accounts of the January trip.) The success of the first trip inspired students and staff to offer the trip twice during the 2008-09 academic year, first during Winterim and again during Spring Break.

"It was fantastically fun and amazingly educational," said Janna Caspersen, a sophomore political science and pre-law major from Houlton. "I learned more about the history of the civil rights movement in one week than I had in my 13 years of formal education. Last year's trip educated me about the history of the civil rights movement, but more importantly it proved to me that America is not equal ... yet. African Americans may have social equality, but economic and political equality is still in the future, unattained and very possible with more education and effort."

It's important that UW-Eau Claire students better understand diversity, the history of the civil rights movement and how civil rights have evolved, said Tony Och, a junior communication major from Oakdale, Minn.

"Martin Luther King Jr. said, 'In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends,'" said Och, who participated in the first pilgrimage and is now helping plan the January trip. "At the beginning of this pilgrimage, we start out as that silent friend and hopefully through the experience we will gain to be the advocates of diversity and social justice on campus. That is my dream for this trip."

The Civil Rights Pilgrimage is sponsored by the UW-Eau Claire Student Senate, the Dean of Students office and the UW-Eau Claire Foundation.

For more information, contact Jodi Thesing-Ritter, associate dean of students, at 715-836-2325 or



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