A group of student leaders from across City Colleges of Chicago is returning to Chicago with a new outlook on the civil rights movement. The 16 students, which included several from the Timuel D. Black Jr. Scholarship & Fellowship (TBSF) program, along with Student Government Association members and student ambassadors, traveled to Alabama for a four-day tour of historic civil rights sites in Birmingham, Montgomery, and Selma.

From Friday, May 17 through Monday, May 20, the students visited several museums and landmarks, from the National Memorial for Peace and Justice to the Edmund Pettus Bridge. For many, it was their first time experiencing the history they’ve learned about in textbooks in a tangible way.

“I first learned about the 16th Street Baptist Church in fifth grade, and it was amazing to see it [in person], said Angelynn Jimenez, a TBSF program participant.

Angelynn recently graduated from Wright College and plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in political science so she can go into public policy.

“You have to learn about the civil rights movement…,” she said. “It’s important to understand what people fought for and how people are still fighting today for their rights.”

Beyond what the students already knew and learned during the trip, touring the historic sites inspired many to want to learn even more.

“Coming on this trip made me realize that I want to learn more about the civil rights movement. I want to be able to teach others more, too,” said Adedoyin Adekanmbi, another TBSF student who recently graduated.

While Adedoyin studied cybersecurity at Olive-Harvey College, she still plans to use what she’s learned about civil rights in her future career—a common goal among several of the students.

James Wolf, who will serve as the vice president of Truman College’s Student Government Association during the upcoming school year, plans to pursue a career as a lawyer. He agreed that the trip was eye-opening.

“If you really want to make a change in this country—which I certainly do—you need to look into the actual lived experiences of this nation,” he said. “It’s not something you can read about and understand… You have to be in this place where it all happened to feel it. There’s really nothing like walking across the [Edmund Pettus] bridge, feeling the heat on you, and knowing this is something that happened in many Americans’ lifetimes.”

View photos from the trip below.