Team Captain Robin Roberts on Gettysburg

I have had the good fortune of being a part of this great organization since its conception back in 2001. I have been able to participate and help guide our student Scholars through countless interactions and 11 summer trips, alongside our Founder and Project Director Mr. Jeffrey Schwartz.

Now, I have been given the task of comparing how far along the Project has progressed over those years.

To keep this short and on equal ground, I will compare the 2002 maiden voyage of the project to Gettysburg with the 2012 summer trip also to Gettysburg.

In 2002, we dove in with open minds and wild enthusiasm. We took on the hatreds that were met head-on in the Civil War. We took on the Confederate Flag and discrimination. We met unexpected challenges around every corner. We weren't always ready but we crossed every hurdle set before us.

We made some mistakes along the way.

I would like to think that - as a project - we've learned some valuable lessons from those early days and are much better prepared and focused for each of the tasks now before us.

As I look back to 2002, I remember the chaperones keeping watch over the Scholars. There were long nights making sure everyone was in bed at the lights-out hour. The trip back in 2002 centered on the entertainment of the students. We kept the Scholars marching on long treks, sticking to tight schedules, and did our best to keep them motivated along the way. We often tried to cram too many activities into each day and sometimes lost the purpose behind each stop.

Many times the chaperones would take turns trying to explain to the Scholars what was going on and what they should be getting out of each experience.

Now in 2012, the Scholars lead the way. They are very goal oriented, motivated, and enter every trip with a purpose in mind. Each night the scholars break down the earlier day's activities and lead discussions on what was learned from the experiences. The Scholars do much of the educating of the group; with the chaperones there to lend a helping hand if needed.

I am very proud to see the Scholars tackle the challenges we present them. They handle long overnight drives, physically challenging bike rides, and long walks with ease. And they have fun and interact in a very positive way.

The Scholars are our guiding light in taking on the tough issues of the various forms of discrimination we see taking place each day in our society.

They are our future and are showing the people we encounter that the future is bright.

In the past, I was exhausted and relieved when the trip was over. Now, I am energized and proud of these students and their accomplishments at the end of each trip.

- Robin "The Warhorse" Roberts
Senior Veteran Team Captain
McLean County Diversity Project

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McLean County Diversity Project   c/o Jeffrey A. Schwartz   16043 Dorado Road Bloomington, IL 61705