January 20, 2009

Journey for Change Notebook: November through January

Posted: 06:00 AM ET

Editor's Note: Thirty kids, ages 12 to 16, from Bushwick, Brooklyn, were chosen to participate in "Journey for Change," a youth empowerment program created by Malaak Compton-Rock. In early August they traveled to South Africa with Compton-Rock and CNN Anchor Soledad O'Brien. The group returned to the U.S. on August 13. Since their return, they've been fundraising and doing service projects. For three days in late December they volunteered at several locations around Brooklyn: a daycare center, a soup kitchen, an abused children center, and a homeless shelter. They also picked up garbage in the streets of Bushwick. All of this followed a November trip to Washington, D.C. where, among other things, they met with Congresswoman Maxine Waters. We've asked them to share their thoughts and experiences by blogging. In July, the group's journey will be featured in Black in America 2: Solutions, a CNN Presents documentary hosted by Soledad O’Brien.

Journey for Change participants traveled to Washington in mid-November. During the visit they briefed Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) about their South African trip.


"I just wanted to tell how you much fun I had today. For starters Barack Obama is the United States President. He finally did what most people said he couldn't do. Today, I managed to make it upstairs to my homeroom to see Obama's speech. He talked about bettering our country, but first all Americans need to come together to help each other out by rebuilding urban and vacant land back to what it is supposed to be. If we Americans can do that, and maybe even more, Barack can handle the rest. Seeing that just made my day. The second after Barack was sworn in, there was noise throughout the entire fourth floor. During lunch we had a huge celebration in the cafeteria!! Today was the best of many days to come. I have witnessed an historic moment today."

-Jordan Ratley, 12


"It has been fun. I liked working at the daycare center. The kids had a lot of energy and loved seeing us. I loved nap time and I slept with them for a while. Volunteering in my own community means a lot because cleaning up the community is like cleaning up our home. This is our home and having garbage around is nasty. Even though some of the garbage was covered with poop, we cleaned it up anyway and made our neighborhood nice."

-Queen Clyde, 12

"Helping to clean up the community and seeing the results and how we made a change was my favorite part."

-Jasmine Figueroa, 14

"The best part was maintenance around the Salvation Army. I liked going into each block cleaning the blocks. It was nasty but worth it. Some people thought we were doing community service because we got in trouble. When we told them we didn't but were just doing it, they said we had good hearts."

-Zuliana Burnett, 14

"My favorite part of volunteering was in the nursery school because I like playing with little kids. I can relate to them because I have a baby sister who is five. I didn't think that I was going to like cleaning up because I thought I was going to see people that I know. But I held my head up and got to cleaning. I felt good about giving back to the community. I know it is not a lot but it is something. And all of this can go on my resume."

-Jeremy Baker, 15

"I liked cleaning up the neighborhood. I had a lot of energy and was a leader. I kept everyone going and made sure that they did not miss a spot. It made me feel excited to clean up my own community."

-Jonathan Severe, 14

"I liked picking up the garbage because it felt good looking at a block and seeing how dirty it was. After cleaning it up, to look at how clean it was gave me a good feeling."

-Albert Brunn III, 12

"I have enjoyed helping the needy and my community. I was able to see a different side of us. I liked my first day in the food kitchen the most. I liked giving people a hot meal."

-Sadara Lewis, 13

"I liked cleaning up the neighborhood –- sweeping it and picking up the garbage. I liked that people appreciated our efforts. It helps to communicate to everyone around that we care about our own environment and lives."

-Sydney Smart, 12

"I liked volunteering at The Salvation Army Center that helps children who have been abused. I worked as an administrative assistant and I filed papers and made copies. The filing was fun because it was challenging. It also made me realize the other side of helping people. I did not think about the office work that needs to be done."

-Imaan Williams, 12

"I enjoyed cleaning the neighborhood because people said thank you to me. They really appreciated what we were doing. I liked helping the kids in the daycare because we helped them to do arts and crafts and make gingerbread houses. It was fun. I also got to experience how to work in an office at shelter for kids. That was a fun place to volunteer at even though it is for a sad reason."

-Tasheema Fulmore-Walker, 14

"I had fun playing with the kids. I ran relay races with them. I also helped to clean up the Community Center. It was a nice thing to do because now the kids have a clean place to eat and play."

-Shawn Todd, 16

"It was really nice to see how happy we made people when we were cleaning up the neighborhood. I liked working in the day care with the kids. They were so cute and fun."

-Dasia Carr, 12

"My favorite part was helping out in the day care because I liked playing with the children. It was good to know that I was able to help them. I liked the community clean up as well. It was nice to know that I was giving back to the community by keeping it clean."

-Shaquille Cadougan, 14

"I worked with the after-care kids and we went on a scavenger hunt with them. That was a lot of fun. I like kids and it was nice to be able to help them have a nice day. That was my favorite part of volunteering."

-Malik Stanford, 12

"I liked cleaning up the streets because it was fun and nice to get compliments from people saying that we were doing a good job. I liked playing with the babies in the day care and doing the administrative work at the center that helped abused kids. It was nice to give back in my own neighborhood."

-Latoya Massie, 14

"Helping people with their jobs has been nice. It felt good to be useful and to take a load of work off of their hands. I liked babysitting the kids in the daycare the best."

-Donovan Rodgers, 13


"My experience to Washington, D.C. was fun. While we were there, we visited the Lincoln Memorial, The Holocaust Museum, and other places. The best part of the trip was going on a college tour. I got to see Howard University and Georgetown. I think that was an excellent thing, going on a college tour, to have an idea of what college we might want to go to later on in the future after finishing high school. When we went to Howard University I felt so welcomed because the students who went there, and the director, were absolutely friendly to us. They gave us gift bags with a Howard University hat, shirt, application, and a bag. That was a nice and generous thing that they did for Journey for Change. Another college that Journey for Change visited was Georgetown. It was huge and it's a Catholic college. The tour for Georgetown University was nice. I thought the college was beautiful.

The saddest part of the trip was when I went to the Holocaust Museum. It was so hard to see that all of the Jewish people were tortured and killed.

The restaurants that we went to had great food. Like at America, the food was good. There was another restaurant that we went to called Busboys and Poets, and the food was great there too. I was grateful that we were able to choose a book from the gift shop there and keep it.

Going to Senator Schumer's office was interesting. I got to learn about what a legislative aide does for a senator and how you can get that job. I went to the Capitol for an advocacy meeting and Congresswoman Maxine Waters was hosting it. I got to learn about the Capitol and some of the laws.

The last day of the trip, we went to the Newseum. It was so fun. When we watched the movie, it felt so realistic when the mice ran across the floor. Queen, Jenee, and I had jumped and were scared the whole time. I really didn't want to leave yet because it was getting better and better. But for the most part, I had fun staying in the hotel and during my whole experience in Washington, D.C."

-Zuliana Burnett, Age 13

"Just came back from Washington D.C. and it was great. We visited many sites: The Lincoln Memorial, The Jefferson Memorial, The Holocust Museum, The Newseum, and we toured two colleges –Howard University and Georgetown. I really enjoyed the Newseum. It's unbelievable that one place can store so many news articles going back to the 1800s. Howard University was great. I have to start thinking about colleges soon, and I told my folks that I would really like to attend Howard University. They even have their own hospital in the college!!! Meeting with Congresswoman Maxine Waters was great. She spoke about how she got to where she is and what she does. Staying in school pays off in the end. Just to think, we were in the same room where laws are made! That was a good feeling. Bye for now."

-Joshua Hall, 15

"I learned a lot in Washington, D.C. I mostly enjoyed touring the colleges. At Howard University, I learned that the Power Tower Clock is the highest point in D.C., not the Washington Monument. I also learned that the chapel there is where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X first met. There we also met with the University President's wife and had a tour guided by some of the students who attend Howard. At Georgetown University I found out that they can actually pay your tuition for you. They also have cannons that are the only weapons that can point at the White House.

While we were in Washington we also met Congresswomen Maxine Waters and saw the work place of Barack Obama when he was a Senator. Besides that we did things that people would normally do when they visit Washington, D.C. like going to monuments and museums. We also had an excellent driver, Al. He informed us about many sites in D.C. that most likely we wouldn't have noticed or known if he hadn't told us."

-Dasia Carr, 12

Filed under: Journey for Change • Soledad OBrien

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Erica Newman   July 22nd, 2009 8:45 pm ET

I want to get involved in Journey for Change...I am a student in Architecture at LSU...starting a non-profit to influence kids is something that I have a calling and a passion to do, but how can I??

Juan   August 4th, 2009 6:52 pm ET

Journey for Change is a wonderful program. However, there is an important component missing. I watched the students reaction to their journey to Africa and they were truly touched as am I. When they returned home and went back to school, they were to experience a great increase in their grades. If a student does not get passing grades during their 10/11 years in school, a trip is not going to cause a significant change in their academics. What some of the students needed in their schooling was a consistent tutor to show them how to study, to identify his/her learning style and show they how to organize them self. This is a much needed part that needs to be added to the Journey for Change program. If anyone involved with the program is interested, I would be happy to assist in establishing/developing this much needed addition.

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