Cornerstone Summer Institute 2019 Was a Great Success!
On a hot afternoon in June, fifty high school students from across the country and the U.K. arrived on Grounds to begin a week-long Institute examining the history of race and the legacies of slavery at UVA and in Charlottesville. This was our largest camp in the four-year history of CSI! The campers were greeted by a fantastic team of UVA undergraduate counselors and after introductions and team building activities, everyone got to work on difficult conversations about the historical context of racism. The days were long, emotional, and tough but everyone put in their best effort about made CSI 2019 the best year yet!
We received nearly two hundred camper applications—the most in the four-year history of CSI! After the campers settled in, we wasted no time in beginning the curriculum centered around difficult conversations beginning with a spectacular Slavery Tour by U-Guides.
The next day, the campers watched I’m Not Racist, Am I? We thank our partners at Beloved Community Charlottesville for facilitating a discussion after the film. I’m Not Racist, Am I? tackles several important CSI themes, including how young people can recognize and interrupt racism.
On Monday, campers toured Monticello and then returned to grounds to learn about UVA, Slavery and the Atonement Process (led by PCSU and PCUAS Co-Chair Kirt von Daacke). The next day, the campers stayed on Grounds examine the legacies of slavery in 20th century history. In the afternoon, the camp visited Small Special Collections. Instruction Librarian Krystal Appiah arranged a vast array of documents ranging from Jefferson’s designs for the University to the torches carried by the Unite-The-Right march in August 2017.
On Wednesday the camp took a trip up to James Madison’s Montpelier. Thanks to our partners at Montpelier Archaeology, our campers were able to gain hands-on experience. We spent a hot day digging in the dirt and found some really great artifacts! After a short snooze on the air-conditioned bus ride back to UVA, campers continued their ongoing dialogue on the legacies of racism with CSI alums Zy Bryant and Lauren McDowell.
On Thursday, our last full day together, the camp visited our local partner, the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center. As a part of our trip, we were able to go on the Jefferson School’s new Confederate Monuments tour. After our tour of the symbols of the legacies of racism in downtown Charlottesville, we returned to Grounds to work on Final Projects!
On Friday, we welcomed about 200 family and friends of CSI to the Rotunda Dome Room for CSI 2019 Final Projects. The campers, presenting reflections on what they had experienced over the week, made us proud as they asked challenging questions and gestured to what we might do today to address those enduring legacies. The 2019 cohort was extraordinarily creative in their final projects: there was an episode of “Law and Order: Cornerstone Summer Institute” that interrogated Thomas Jefferson, slam poetry about Henry Martin challenging how he was long memorialized as “the faithful slave,” amazing movie posters done in the style of superhero movies, and a documentary primer on structural racism, among others! One project even included a page of references–so much for the theory that high school (or college students) can’t be asked to live up to professional citation standards!
We are so proud of how much the campers learned, how often they asked difficult questions, challenged their guides, counselors, and professors with critical commentary, and how they synthesized all that material in presentations.
Our counselor team of UVA students was, as always, amazing. We are so lucky to have such dedicated, smart, and caring students who are willing to work with us and high school students during the summer.