A group of 22 students has been touring the south in recent says to learn about civil rights history. They're part of a leadership program called Operation Understanding DC. These high school seniors, all either black or Jewish, have been studying social injustice for the past year.
"We've been studying the history, but we think it's important for young people to connect with history," said program director Aaron Jenkins. "So we're going to study the history, we're going to meet people today who are going to share what Meridian was like in the 60s and what it looks like today."
Bill Ready, Sr., and Roscoe Jones, Sr., spoke about their experiences during the civil rights era. The city's first black mayor, Percy Bland, showed up to talk about the strides we're making today.
This tour started in Washington, D.C. and its way down south. The teens are traveling by bus like the Freedom Riders of the 1960s. And like those civil rights activists, they want to make a difference in society.
The program's summer journey is paid for by the students themselves through donations and fundraisers.
"It is very overwhelming because you see so much history; you have so much intense feeling and emotion toward the civil rights movement and what so many people gave and devoted their life to do," said Endria Samson of Silver Springs, Maryland. "And you start to understand why people care about society so much. They want their children to have a better society."
The students say they hope they can use the knowledge they gain here to do just that, impact the future.
"Social justice is a really big part of what I want to do in the future," said Maggie Atkinson of Arlington, Virginia. "So using religion and being able to relate to other people is really important to me so that I know I can make the world a better place and have the biggest impact I possibly can in the future."
The students will return home at the end of the month.