I’m Tracy Hayes, the National Trust’s project manager for the Rosenwald Schools National Treasure. So far, 2012 has been exciting and busy for our team. Topping the list of highlights and milestones is a unique meeting of the minds that I’d like to dedicate this first post to.
After nearly a year’s worth of planning with our partners in Alabama, we held the first National Rosenwald Schools Conference, 100 Years of Pride, Progress, and Preservation, at Tuskegee University – the place where the Rosenwald School movement all began. The 54 education sessions, documentary screenings, discussions, tours, and workshops delivered tailor-made information and support to groups saving and restoring historic Rosenwald Schools. Community groups, school alumni, Rosenwald and Washington descendants, historians, and preservationists comprised the more than 300 conference attendees representing 22 states. Speakers, including world-renowned poet, activist, and educator Nikki Giovanni, drew in local attendees to events open to the public, swelling attendance to over 400 by the closing session.
For those of us on the planning end, it was an extraordinary experience, worth every sleepless night and minute of overtime we put in to pull it off. But don’t just take it from me; our conference attendees say it best:
“The atmosphere at the conference was one of great excitement and enthusiasm since so many attendees seemed to be alumni and/or those interested in saving a particular school. I also thought the range of topics, from bureaucratic process to Facebook/blog campaigns, were really interesting and more inclusive than your average conference.”
“There is a rich heritage at Tuskegee that permeated the souls of many of us who were present.”
“Such a wonderful spirit of camaraderie and support was present. The sessions were just the right mix of beginner and more advanced level – a nice balance of history and technical information, too.”
“The things I learned at the National Rosenwald Schools Conference held at Tuskegee University were life changing. This was by far the best professional and personal development conference I have ever attended. The story of what Julius Rosenwald and Booker T. Washington did for the world must be told.”