Fifty years after the original Freedom Riders challenged segregation in the South, a diverse group of 40 college students from across the country will retrace the original route on a 10-day journey to explore how civic engagement now impacts campuses and communities. Among the “new” Freedom Riders will be Messiah College junior Diana Mahoney.
Mahoney, a human development and family science major, first heard about the opportunity from faculty in her department. After researching the original Freedom Ride, she decided to apply and submitted several essays to demonstrate her reasons for wanting to participate, her thoughts on the role of social media and technology in civic engagement today, and her extracurricular activities. Mahoney stood out among nearly 1,000 applicants.
“Throughout college I’ve been getting more and more interested and involved in issues relating to social justice, so when I read about [the Freedom Ride] I thought that it would be such an incredible experience to have the opportunity to learn from those who have gone before [me] and stood up for what they believe was right,” Mahoney said about her desire to participate in this historical event.
Mahoney is actively involved in civic engagement and service opportunities as a Messiah student. She volunteers at the Bethesda Youth Mission and the Center for Champions in Harrisburg and works with Destiny Rescue, an organization that raises awareness and money to help end human trafficking in India, Thailand and Africa. Mahoney is also currently doing an internship with an elementary school in North Philadelphia and has studied abroad in Barcelona, Spain.
Mahoney’s 10-day Freedom Ride journey began May 6 in Washington, D.C. and will finish on May 16 in New Orleans. During this time, the bus will stop at historically significant locations. Students will be sharing their experiences via Twitter and blogs. Throughout the trip, students will meet the original Freedom Riders, a moment Mahoney expects to be the highlight of the trip.
“It’s so easy to get overwhelmed by all that is wrong in the world, to throw up your hands and feel like your voice and your hands are irrelevant in the grand scheme of things,” Mahoney said. “The beauty of the act of bringing consciousness is that it doesn’t need to necessarily be starting organizations or partaking in bus demonstrations; instead, it’s in all the little things like talking about issues with your friends and staying aware, avoiding complacency.”
The 2011 Student Freedom Ride is sponsored by “American Experience” on PBS. Filmmaker Stanley Nelson who recently directed the film “Freedom Riders” will accompany the students.
You can follow the Ride on a variety of social media channels. Specifically you can follow Messiah’s Mahoney on Twitter at DianaMahoney1 or watch for her posts on the Ride’s website. Additionally, you can follow @pbsamex or @FreedomRidePBS. On Facebook you can find the Freedom Ride at facebook.com/ride or facebook.com/americanexperience.