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When Kennedi Smith, a senior medical humanities major, returned to campus for the spring semester she didn’t know how her perspective on identity, culture and Black History Month would evolve.

Just before the semester started, Smith and 44 other students stepped on a bus for the ninth annual Civil Rights and Social Justice Experience, hosted by UTSA’s Student Leadership Center.

In five days the students visited some of the most prominent sites of the U.S. civil rights movement as well as several museums that commemorate the era.

While Smith knew she’d return to UTSA with newfound knowledge on her culture, she didn’t realize the impact it would have on her.

So you recently just went on the Civil Rights and Social Justice Experience. Can you tell me about it?

For me, it was so impactful because these are my ancestors. The fact that I can go and learn all these things that I was never taught in school or during Black History Month was amazing. I was very grateful that I was given the opportunity to be able to go. Imagine how many students don’t often get to go and learn these types of things.

What motivated you to be part of this opportunity?

Well, I’ve always been active with the Student Leadership Center. Everything they do I usually am apart of or try to be part of. For this particular trip, I usually go home for the holiday break, but this year I was like, “It’s my last year. I have to go on this trip!”

They had been asking me since my sophomore year, so I decided to finally do it. We all want to leave our mark. It’s something a lot of students have the most wonderful experience doing.

I know you all had several days on this trip with a vast selection of museum visits and cities. Can you tell me a little bit about what you saw and what stood out the most for you?

We went to Edgar, Louisiana, to visit the Whitney Plantation. This plantation focuses more on the story of the slaves. I’ve been to other plantations and usually it focuses more on the slave owners and their commercial background because it was a business.

The Whitney Plantation also focused on the children, which is very hard for me because I want to be a pediatrician, so kids are very dear to my heart. All around the plantation they had these statues of slave children, and it just kind of told their stories. It was very emotional. I’ve seen things like that before, but because it was told from a different perspective it made it a lot more meaningful. It hit home a little more.

Read the full story on UTSA Today.