A&T Honor Students Spend Spring Break in Service PDF Print E-mail
By Marcus Thompson -- Black College Wire   

Doesn’t a free, week-long trip to an island off the coast of Venezuela sound like a dream vacation?

While some students enjoyed the comfort of their homes and vacationed with their families for Spring Break 2009, one group of North Carolina A&T University students spent their break providing community service in another country.

Eight selected students and two chaperones went to Trinidad and Tobago from Feb. 28 to March 7 on a community service and ambassadors project.

Trinidad and Tobago map
  The trip was sponsored by Chancellor Stanley F. Battle and the sophomore class, and funded by the university.  The idea was proposed by Dianne Williams, a native of Trinidad and a professor in African American Experience.  Williams had previously taken students with her to the island in 2006 and she presented her class with the culture and the experiences that her former students gained, which inspired the group of students to participate in this year’s project. 

Wayne Kimball, Jr., sophomore class president, Kendra Gaskins, sophomore class vice president, and Jasmine Johnson met with Williams several times and wrote a proposal along with a presentation to the chancellor. 

Battle later took the information and a list compiled by the sophomore class e-board and selected the group of eight sophomore honors students for the trip.  Students spoke with animal shelter and educational representatives in Trinidad to find out what necessities would be needed and they began to collect supplies.  The students provided computers, school supplies and pet care supplies for the shelter.

Jasmine Johnson
N.C. A&T students in Trinidad
The A&T representatives also visited several schools during each day of their trip such as the Naparima School for Girls, St. George’s Academy, and the University of Trinidad and Tobago. 

During their visits to the schools, the A&T students gave out Aggie souvenirs, brochures, and applications and shared their experiences at the university to encourage the Trinidadian students to become future Aggies.

During their free time, students got to enjoy the full cultural experience of Trinidad.
“The country has such a rich history,” said Jasmine Johnson, a sophomore print journalism major from Frankfort, KY.  “I feel like I learned more about the country in a week than I know about the United States.”

The student ambassadors got to visit the house of the first free Black slave, tour the Port of Spain, visit the site of the Trinidadian Declaration of Independence, and observe a Hindu temple, among other historical landmarks in the country.

They also had the opportunity to attend the Crème de la Crème concert and Carnival, Trinidad’s version of New Orleans’ Mardi Gras. 

While touring the country, the students visited a radio station owned by Dr. Williams’ brother, Kenny Phillips.  Students were interviewed on a live radio show about their experience in country and some even left with internships.

“What I liked most about the trip was just being able to experience the culture and spread the word about what it means to be an Aggie,” said Shami Chimonyo, a sophomore political science major from Fairfield, Calif. 

“I feel like we recruited a lot of students and a lot of them look forward to coming here in the next year or in the next two years.

Aside from that, just being able to travel, expand myself mentally, socially, and spiritually, I just thought it was a wonderful opportunity for us to be able to go abroad and experience a different culture.”

Some students stated that their time in Trinidad was a mind-opening experience and really set them apart from their Americanized perspective of the world. 

While some students were planning to return to Trinidad and Tobago for internships and the next Carnival, others planned to come back to hear Obama speak in April.

Williams stated that she was glad that the students were able to learn about the foreign land and engage in the cultural experience. “I believe that the students have experienced the type of life changing experience that we had hoped they would,”  Williams said.

Williams added that with the current economic situation it may be difficult to fund more trips, but they intend to repeat the project in the future.

Marcus Thompson writes for The Register, the North Carolina A&T student newspaper, which originally published this article.

Posted Mar. 14, 2009
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