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Whitman College Teaches the Civil Rights Movement to Public School Students

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Students made signs protesting things in today's world they wanted to see changed. Students made signs protesting things in today's world they wanted to see changed.

WALLA WALLA, WA- Whitman College is making sure local public schools in their area learn about the Civil Rights Movement by using volunteers from their college to teach inside of those classrooms. 

Education is a top concern in Washington, but teaching civil rights in schools has been lacking.

The state of Washington has received an "F" when it comes to young students' knowledge on civil rights.

That low letter grade made some students at Whitman College in Walla Walla want to help their community by helping these grade school students learn what it is all about.

The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday just passed and now it is Black History Month.  Whitman College has a program called "Whitman Teaches the Movement."  The college used this time to tell 2nd graders at Berney Elementary School in Walla Walla all about the civil rights movement.

"It's just an added benefit for the kids to hear from others about how important it is to learn about the past and to learn about our difference, and yet our similarities," said 2nd grade teacher Jennifer Holbrook.

The bright minds gathered around to hear lessons from the story "Freedom On the Menu," a book that describes what an African American family went through in the segregated south and how they protested.

Afterwards, the students made their own protest signs.  The hands-on activities made it fun and easy for the kids to learn.

"I like doing it.  I always like when this happens.  It's fun," said 2nd grader Adalynn Struckmeier.

Whitman College has 42 volunteers this year and they reach nearly 800 students around Walla Walla.

4th year volunteer, Leslie Rodriguez said it is important that young kids learn valuable lessons in history, especially related to civil rights because in Washington, it is not taught enough.

"That's something that's not talked about.  I think it's important for little kids, especially 2nd graders to know this," said Rodriguez.

The program also hopes it will give young students confidence that they can make a change.

"They, as an individual today, could be someone who makes a small change that overtime could have a part to play in greater social change," said Susan Prudente, Outreach Coordinator in the Student Engagement Center at Whitman College.

Whitman College said right now that "F" has gone up to a "D" and that little bit of improvement, is important.  Other universities around the state are looking at Whitman's program as a model for their own.

Parents interested in having this program come to your child's school should tell their local school district superintendent and have them contact Whitman College.