Saturday, May 21, 2011

Trip to USC Thrills Project Ujima Students

Project Ujima students at USC
An enthusiastic group of more than 80 San Diego Unified School District parents, guardians and students participated in Project Ujima’s April 16th tour of the University of Southern California and the California African American History Museum Tour.

Although Los Angeles was experiencing record high temperatures that day, the heat didn’t stifle the group’s enthusiasm, because Project Ujima parents and guardians were on a mission. They wanted their children to walk the halls of a university within reach of their hopes and dreams for a brighter future, and they also wanted to take the opportunity to appreciate the struggles and accomplishments of our African American forbearers.

The theme for the day might very well have been, “Name it and Claim It.” Whether it was a future as a USC Trojan or a renewed respect for the struggles and accomplishments of generations of African Americans, Project Ujima families were ready to claim their place in education and history.

Upon reaching the USC campus, Project Ujima participants were divided into small, interactive walking tour groups. Thanks to the foresight of Elneda Shannon, co-creator of Project Ujima and Manager of the SDUSD’s Harold J. Ballard Parent Center, most of the tours were led by current USC African-American students who are San Diego natives. This meant that the Project Ujima families explored USC under the guidance of campus tour guides who grew up in the same communities and attended the same schools as they did. As a consequence, the tour guides were seen by both parents and children as role models for what the children could accomplish educationally, and parents and students alike exhibited pride of ownership when they asked the tour guides questions ranging from student-teacher ratios to dormitory living, financial aid packages and GPA criteria for admission.

Throughout the day, whether it was during the guided tour of the campus grounds or while seated in the college classrooms or touring libraries and enjoying a delicious meal in one of the cafeterias, Project Ujima youth were constantly reminded to “see your future today; imagine more for yourselves. Have a plan for your future at every grade level.”

In many ways, the exchanges that occurred at USC served as important reminders that that the families in Project Ujima are going the extra mile to safeguard their children’s futures by participating in classes designed to help strengthen African American families, promote academic excellence, and provide parents with additional tools to help them become strong educational advocates for their children.
Prior to embarking on the tour, Project Ujima parents and extended family members had already participated in numerous sessions and workshops about the importance of appreciating African American history and culture, the need to promote a college-going culture in the home and community for youth of all ages, and the importance of postsecondary educational training to help prepare today’s youth to be contributing members of society. The tour of one of California’s premiere universities reinforced what families have been learning in Project Ujima classes for several months and gave them added incentive to guide their children along the path to academic success.

A visit to the renowned California African American History Museum, located next to the USC campus, was a fitting end to the day. It was here that previous work on the importance of instilling Black Pride in our youth merged seamlessly with the day’s other activities. Prior to heading home for the day, Project Ujima families enjoyed the museum’s guided tours, interactive displays, and exhibits of historical photos and artifacts of our African American heritage.