September 18, 2009
My name is Reynauld Smith and I am a retired AP US History teacher from the District public school system. For more than 10 years I have been one of the opening presenters with Operation Understanding. My presentations usulally include an overview of the Civil Rights Movement and African American History, my personal involvement in The Movement and specific Civil Rights issues of today. The concept of bringing African American and Jewish students together to study the history and culture of each group lends itself to numerous positive outcomes. At least seven of my former African American students have been selected to participate in the program and all, but one, have completed college. All of my former students were products of the District of Columbia inner city and many of these students had no desire to attend any College of University. Very few of my students had ever met anyone that was Jewish or middle/upper middle class. To witness these students step out of their confort zone and actively embrace the culture of another group is humbling. The Summer Travel component where students visit historical Jewish and African American sites from New york to Mississippi, is "Life Altering." Students visit sites important to jewish and Afrian American history and culture and get the opportunity to meet the people that created and lived that history... The campus of Tuskegee University, Dr King's personal lawyer, participants in the Selma to Montgomery March, former members of SCLC and SNCC. As a former educator this the ultimate example of "Primary Source." Finally Students must become active participants in making a positive difference in Race Relations in America...registering voters and helping to rebuild churches in Missippi and speaking with Holocaust survivors and ensuring them that "We Will Never Forget." I think the greatest reward of this program is that it addresses one of the major divisions in our society..."RACE." To have these teenagers come together for one year and forge bonds of friendship and love helps me to remain optimistic about the future of American Race Relations.
If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...
Positively change the lives of 100's of inner city teenagers.
How frequently have you been involved with the organization?
About once a year
When was your last experience with this nonprofit?
MY ROLE:Professional with expertise in this field & I am an annual presenter at the yearly retreat of the new Operation Understanding group.