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Thursday, June 14, 2012

New Vision Youth Invades Washington, D.C. (In a good way, of course!)

"It was a great experience, and it was real fun."

"I very much want to come back."

That was the general feeling among the New Vision Youth, at the end of a whirlwind tour of some of the sights in Washington, D.C.

13 year old McKenzie Fullen, 9th grader at Dobyns-Bennett High School says, she even loved the bus ride from Kingsport to the nation's capital.

"My favorite time was when we were riding around and we were hearing about all the places while we were riding along. It was fun going up to the statues and monuments, reading what they had on them and taking pictures," she said.

Click here to see a slideshow of the New Vision Youth visit to Washington, D.C.

"The kids enjoyed Calvin Sneed, our tour guide and one of our mentors, telling them what they needed to know about the buildings they were seeing and the monuments that they were visiting. They had plenty of questions and really learned a lot."

"For example, Calvin took us on a tour of the National Mall," says Mrs. Swagerty, "and on the way, he pointed out several brick buildings that rose above the treeline. On the other side, we saw them and he pointed out that the buildings were the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.. that all the money in the United States is printed in those buildings. The kids had heard of the Federal Reserve System, and they were surprised to learn that money is printed at the bureau first, then sent to the banks in the Federal Reserve system. That was something they didn't know."

The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial was the first stop on the walking tour of the National Mall.

The monument of Dr. King was conceived under the theme "Build the Dream." It is actually two separate stone structures, the first called the "Mountain of Despair," which is split into two separate pieces. The second slab of stone, called the "Stone of Hope" is the one with Dr. King's likeness etched into it.

In 1996, the U.S. House of Representatives authorized the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity to establish a memorial in Washington to honor Dr. King. Master sculptor Lei Yixin captured the likeness of Dr. King, at a cost of $120 million dollars to build and maintain the memorial and the grounds. Today, thousands of visitors pay their respects to Dr. King and the dream on the edge of the National Mall.

But the sheer beauty of the monument is the most impressive aspect of the memorial.

"That was pretty cool," remembered 12 year old Savion Camp, 6th grader at John Sevier Middle School. "He's the first Black man to be in a statute like that I have ever seen. He set an example for everyone else, just because people of different races, they should be treated the same. I agree with that, and I like him for that."

"It was a pretty big statute to him."

The King Memorial also made an impression on McKenzie, too.

"Dr. King... that was an amazing statue," she said. "He deserves that.. it was really nice. There were a lot of people taking pictures.. it was really nice."

"Just seeing the statue made a huge difference in history," says McKenzie. "He changed a lot of things with how we are today. I read the staying and quotes that were posted around the statue that he said. It difinitely makes you want to be more like him."

"He was a grat man.. there's nothing bad you can think about him. He made a huge difference in history."

Among the other sites on the Mall Walking Tour was the giant Washington Monument, the giant stone monolith, exactly halfway between the U.S. Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial.

The monument is the tallest structure in Washington, D.C., standing 555 feet tall, surrounded by 55 flags symbolizing the 50 states in America.

The New Vision Youth were mesmerized by the tall stone monument, that is undergoing major renovations right now. Several months ago, the monument was severely damaged by an earthquake that struck the area, knocking several stone panels off the structure. The damage was still visible when the New Vision Youth visited, and many of them commented on the blemishes they saw.

The Lincoln Memorial really made an impression on the young minds.

"It was one of the things I was looking forward to seeing," McKenzie says. "I loved climbing up the steps and when you get to the top, you can see out."

All the kids admired the 36 big, tall columns made of both marble and limestone, making the entire monument seem like a Greek temple. There are 36 of them, because there were 36 states in the Union when Lincoln became president in 1861. Each of the states are inscribed into the top of the building.

Some of the group got to the 57 steps up to the doors of the memorial, opted not to make the trek. For those that did, a treat awaited them: a 19-foot tall statue of a sitting President Lincoln, made of Georgia marble.

"He's also a good person, just like Martin Luther King" says Savion. "We studied a lot about him in school. He set examples, too, for a lot of people. You'd think.. just because someone did something nice for the world, they should be remembered for something like that.

"There were a lot of people inside," McKenzie noted, "and they were all getting their pictures made with the statue, and that made it seem historic. It was huge and it was fun to see it."

The statue was sculpted by Daniel Chester French in 1915. The entire monument was began on Lincoln's birthday that year at a cost of $3 million dollars, and dedicated 7 years later. It stands 99 feet tall, and is visible from just about every spot on the mall.

One of the murals inside depicted the angle of truth, freeing a slave. That was a focal point during the tour, since Reverend King gave his famous "I have a Dream" speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963. The inscription that marks the spot where he stood, was a source of wonderment for the kids who saw it, imagining what their ancestors experienced almost 50 years ago.

Among the other places on the Mall the kids spent time was the World War II Memorial.

"The kids enjoyed seeing all of the veterans who came out to visit the tribute to their service," Mrs. Swagerty says. "Whenever we saw a veteran, we told them 'thank you for your service' and applauded them. There were lots of veterans there, and you can imagine, there were lots of 'thank you's' and plenty of applause during our visit."

Later, the U.S. Capitol was a highlight for the kids, "the one building they see all the time on the news," Mrs. Swagerty says. It was explained that all of our country's laws and rules come out of the big building, with two wings on either side of it, one housing the U.S. Senate, and the other housing the U.S. House of Representatives. The kids were told that whenever they see the phrase "Senator so-and-so or U.S. House Representative so-and-so sponsored a bill or brought up legislation.. this was the building where they did that.

That also made a big impression.

The most exciting visit was next. First riding past the White House, the tour bus parked a couple of blocks away, and the kids that made the trip around the security checkpoints, were able to view up close, the home of the president of the United States, Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and the First Children.

Some of the smaller children were so enthralled by the White House they see on the news, that a couple of them did not want to leave, fearing they'd miss an opportunity to see the president, if he came out.

Other sites visited on the bus were Howard University, the National Archives building, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the buildings of the Smithsonian Institution, the Newseum, F.B.I Headquarters, and the National Gallery of Art.

"This trip was bigger than life for many of the kids," says Mrs. Swagerty. "We need to thank our chaperones, local artist Unome, Mrs. Louise Repass, Kitty Camp, Reverend Myrick, Darius Davis, Adam Lytle, Tiebow Tours driver Jackie Denning and his brother John, and Calvin Sneed, our tour guide and one of our mentors."

"It was a great experience and it was real fun," says McKenzie. "I learned a lot of stuff."

"Yes, yes, yes," echoed Savion. "I want to come back and explore and just find new things, learn new things about the country."

"I want to learn more about my culture."

Next yearly trip for the New Vision Youth group will be the Behama Mama Cruise in 2014.