In the fifth year of Whitman College's successful Whitman Teaches the Movement program, two students were invited to travel to the country's largest civic engagement and social justice conference this year to present on the program's success in Walla Walla schools.

Cherokee Washington '17 and Nicole Antenucci '18, the student organizers of this year's Whitman Teaches the Movement program, will attend the IMPACT Conference at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in late February.

The IMPACT Conference focuses on the civic engagement of college students in community service, service-learning, community based, research, advocacy and other forms of social action.

"We hope to spread awareness of the Whitman Teaches the Movement program and the civil rights issues that we focus on, but also to inspire other schools around the country to create their own version of Whitman Teaches the Movement," said Antenucci.

The conference comes at the conclusion of another successful year of Whitman Teaches the Movement. Forty-five Whitman students taught civil rights curricula in 50 Walla Walla classrooms. This year's program included the youngest students yet: first graders.

The program includes age-appropriate lessons on the Greensboro sit-ins, Jackie Robinson, feminism in the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Cesar Chavez.

The new first-grade curriculum will focus on the story of Ruby Bridges, the American activist known for being the first black child to attend an all-white elementary school in Louisiana in 1960. The first graders will express their reactions to the stories by drawing pictures. Those will later be displayed on the Whitman College campus and at the Walla Walla Public Library.

The effects of Whitman Teaches the Movement reach beyond the Walla Walla community. The program is also being used as a model for schools across the country. The University of Washington, Eastern Washington University and Whitworth University have all implemented similar programs modeled after Whitman's.

As she was preparing to present at the IMPACT Conference, Washington looked forward to taking the civil rights lessons even farther outside of Walla Walla to combat what she identifies as a prominent issue in our country. She describes it as "blissful ignorance."

"I truly believe that Whitman Teaches the Movement is taking steps to combat this ignorance, from creating safe spaces for difficult conversation to encouraging youth to be agents of change through our lessons," said Washington. "This program is a necessity."