Selma youth get glimpse at bigger picture

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 9, 2006

The Selma Times-Journal

Six Selma youth had an opportunity recently to get out of their environment and experience a different culture.

Through the Selma Youth Development Center, the young people traveled to Burlington, Vt., for a nine-day visit in an annual exchange.

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Frank Hardy, director of the Selma Youth Development Center, said the purpose of the trip is to give the children a growth experience.

Traveling and meeting different people helps stimulate their development, Hardy said.

Nine-year-old Jayala Averhert, the youngest to make the trip, agreed.

The Trip

The adventure began with a drive to Atlanta, where the young people boarded a plane for a three-hour flight to Burlington. Hardy went along to help them get settled.

Her sister, Tanikki Averhert, 13, admitted she was &8220;a little scared&8221; getting on the plane.

It turned out to be a great trip for her.

The group from Selma stayed together in the basement of the home of their hosts &045; Neil and Marianne Callahan and their son, John.

They participated in several activities while in Vermont, including boating on Lake Champlain, attending soccer camp at St. Michael’s College (Jayala was excited that they played soccer on &8220;fake&8221; grass). Three of the boys attended a basketball camp at the college.

Each evening they had an activity, such as boating on Lake Champlain, bowling and on Saturday they hiked Camel’s Hump, a mountain in Vermont.

David Averhert, 16, who made the trip last year, said he enjoyed fishing (he caught two bass).

Other highlights of their trip including shopping at Kohl’s, a trip to the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream plant, and swimming every day in the Callahan’s back yard swimming pool.

They all agreed they would have stayed longer and would love to go back.

Tawanda said she felt well taken care of during the trip, especially after she had two asthma attacks and had to go to the hospital. &8220;I want to thank the Callahans for staying with me at the hospital,&8221; she said.

Tanikki also said she wanted to thank the Callahans for letting them come and stay in their home. &8220;They didn’t have to let us do it,&8221; she said.

Other young people who made the trip included Mike Strong, 13, and Dequantye Myers, 12.

The Beginning

Hardy said the exchange came about several years ago.

Families in Burlington – like the Callahans – sponsor the children. &8220;We usually send two kids,&8221; Hardy said. &8220;But we felt like we were neglecting some of the other kids. This year, we were able to send six kids up there. Who knows how many we’ll take next year.&8221;

During their stay in Vermont, the children held a party for those who had contributed. &8220;They all came and just hung out with us,&8221; Hardy said.

Hardy said several families in that Burlington neighborhood &045; which has very few minorities &045; expressed interest in the program.