RPS students chosen for unique Washington experience

9/15/2016, 11:57 p.m.
Forty high school students from Richmond Public Schools will attend the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s National Town Hall on Thursday, ...

By Lauren Northington

Forty high school students from Richmond Public Schools will attend the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s National Town Hall on Thursday, Sept. 15, in Washington.

The town hall is part of the CBC’s 46th Annual Legislative Conference that is expected to draw 10,000 politicians, policymakers, activists and professionals to discuss issues critical to the African-American community.

The five-day conference ends Sunday, Sept. 18, and is sponsored by the nonpartisan, nonprofit CBC Foundation that aims to advance the global black community by developing leaders, informing policy and educating the public.

The Richmond students will attend the town hall, where President Obama and several noted leaders in academia, public policy and social justice are expected to speak.

The theme: “The Black Agenda for the Next Administration: What’s at Stake!”

Richmond native Dr. Harry Watkins is a senior research and policy analyst for the CBC Foundation and leader of the Civic and Cultural Immersion Program through which the RPS students are attending the Washington event.

The program will allow the students “to experience a new culture, view the heart of the U.S. government close up and obtain a better understanding of their own culture,” according to program information. “This exposure can result in a positive, life-changing experience that would be one-of-a-kind for students in the course of their education.”

Panelists at the town hall meeting will include Dr. Julianne Malveaux, an economist and former president of Bennett College in North Carolina; Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League; LaTanja Silvester, president of the Service Employees International Union Local 21 in Louisiana; Brittany Packnett, executive director of the St. Louis chapter of Teach for America; Jahmal Miller, deputy director of the Office of Health Equity for the California Department of Public Health; and Dr. Melina Abdullah, professor and chair of the Pan-African Studies Department at California State University.

Following the town hall, the Richmond high school students will attend a luncheon sponsored by Dell Corp. and then visit the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial before returning home.

Five Israeli students visiting the United States on a diplomacy trip with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum will join the RPS students at the town hall and luncheon.

Dr. Watkins said the students were nominated for the program by guidance counselors and principals who selected two students from grades nine through 12 at Huguenot, George Wythe, John Marshall, Armstrong and Thomas Jefferson high schools.

“I wanted the students to have a full government immersion experience,” Dr. Watkins said.

A new Y-CAPP grant allows the student to attend the conference at no cost to the school system, students or parents, according to the program material.