WVU Students Head South for Class

Article excerpt

Eight students from West Virginia University headed south Saturday on spring break, but not to sunbathe on a beach.

Instead, they will travel the road where hundreds marched for voting rights, visit a church where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. preached, and talk with community leaders who saw the civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s.

They're in a class, too.

The "Community Organizing & the Civil Rights in Alabama" class is sponsored by Amizade, a Pittsburgh-based volunteer nonprofit organization that has partnered with WVU. For $840 in tuition, each student can earn one academic credit from the university. This is the first time Amizade has offered the class.

This week, students will visit historic civil rights sites in Alabama and Georgia and talk with community leaders there to understand key aspects of the movement, instructor Jen Saffron said.

"This is not a vacation. This is not tourism," said Saffron, who also teaches with the University of Pittsburgh English department. "It's an opportunity to both observe the history of this country and meet current leaders."

Among the stops in Selma, Ala., are the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute and the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where state troopers attacked nonviolent marchers rallying for voting rights for blacks.

Daniel Funk, a senior political science and philosophy major, said he enrolled in the class to become more aware of the social inequality around him. He ultimately wants to bring what he learns from the trip into his co-ed service fraternity, he said.

"I'm looking to have my eyes opened," he said. "I have no doubt this will be a phenomenal experience. …