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I met so many amazing activists and organizers in my trips to St. Louis and Chicago with the Realities of Race seminar. They were people who have fought and continue to fight for racial equality in a number of different ways, and who gave me so much knowledge that I am eternally grateful for. However, I could not have taken in as much from these amazing people, without help of the other students in the seminar with me.

The Realities of Race seminar is different than the Appalachian seminars in that we are not going somewhere to provide a service, we are going to learn, discuss, and try to understand the impact of race in our society today. A lot of what we learned and discussed was extremely disheartening and difficult to hear, as it turns out that talking about race in our society isn’t the most happy-go-lucky way to spend a week of your life. But, with the help of my group members, I was able to better process and absorb what I learned, as well as not let it leave me feeling helpless.

It was the nights of intense discussion, followed by ridiculous games that pulled me through. I struggled with deep internal questions about race, but I also cried laughing watching my new friends try to say vegetable names without exposing their teeth. I pondered existential questions but I also sang along to a performance of “You’ll Be Back” from Hamilton at 1:00 a.m. in the basement of a church, wearing my pajamas. This balance is what made my experience so impactful by reminding me that it is extremely important to think about negative things happening in our society and how I play a role in them, but it is also extremely important to find the positive things in my life and allow myself to enjoy them. I met a lot of outstanding people on my trip, and among them are the 14 people I traveled with.

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