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A group of students and chaperones pose for a photo in front of the Freedom Rides Museum.

Students and chaperones from FTCC and FSU in front of the Freedom Rides Museum in Montgomery, Alabama, in March 2023.

Fayetteville Technical Community College students had the chance to walk in the footsteps of history-makers last month when they traveled to Selma, Alabama, for a trip rich with cultural relevance.

The group, which included students from FTCC and Fayetteville State University, visited a number of landmarks central to the Civil Rights movement and Black history, including the Edmund Pettus Bridge, Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site, the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the National Voting Rights Museum.

“I had very high expectations, and it didn’t disappoint,” FTCC student Joshua Farley said. “We went to different museums and we saw just how big of an impact they made back then, especially our ancestors and what they went through.”

The trip, which was made possible through a community engagement grant from the North Carolina Humanities Council, included the Student Leadership Conference and stops at the Jubilee Festival and Parade as well as the Intergenerational Hip Hop Summit.

FTCC history instructor Christy Davenport said the experience provided a high-value educational opportunity for students to connect the real world with lessons covered in the classroom.

“We talk about these things and how significant they are. But to actually be there, you could tell that it really resonated with them,” Davenport said. “They talked to people who were actually there as children on Bloody Sunday. You could tell that it put everything into perspective as far as how relevant this still is.”

College students stand on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama.

FTCC and FSU students stand on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, in March 2023.

The five-day trip included multiple stops at historic and cultural sites each day. To help document the trip, instructors and mentors on the trip interviewed students immediately after each stop, recording students’ reflections on the lessons learned and emotions evoked at each site.

These recordings will be housed as the Voices of Selma Project in the digital archives at FTCC’s Paul H. Thompson Library.

In addition to the recorded interviews, FTCC student Nathan King said the visits at each site sparked conversation among the students.

“We had discussions on the bus about how we felt, what we understood and what we got as the main points of the different places we went to,” he said.

FTCC student Nashon Eury said that while the subject matter of the trip was poignant, he drew inspiration from experience.

“It was a lot to take in,” Eury said. “Even thinking about it now, it was overwhelming, seeing what my ancestors probably went through. But I took a step back and felt more inspired if anything to push forward with what they started.”