50 Years of Peace: Transformational Road Trips

An important component of Peace Neighborhood Center’s summer programs is the opportunity for youth to explore new places beyond our local community. Peace Alum have fond memories of the camping trips they took with Rose Martin and Bonnie Billups, where they had the chance to experience nature and build new life skills. A select group of older Peace youth have also had the opportunity to take an extended road trip across our country at the end of the summer. Beyond fun, these road trips offer young people transformational experiences that have a lasting impact in helping to shape their identity and future.

Though each trip is unique, Peace’s Transformational Road Trips always offer our kids the opportunity to forge deeper relationships with one another, sample regional cultures, and explore our country’s expansive landscape—including visits to iconic national parks like Kentucky’s Mammoth Caves and the Grand Canyon. Through visits to national historic civil rights sites and museums, youth cultivate a deeper understanding of our nation’s complicated history and where they fit within our wider world. Visits to historically black colleges and universities seed future possibilities and inspire long-term career goals. 

At the end of the summer, Peace’s older youth earn a spot on a road trip through positive behavior, leadership, community service, and academic success. We also invite youth who might be struggling because of special circumstances in their families and who need the trip to help widen their lens and shift their perspective. Participants take an active role in helping to plan every road trip and all the activities, including mapping out the route on a physical map and developing a detailed itinerary.

Peace’s longest road trip to date covered 5,777 miles in two weekswhen two Peace staff members, a volunteer, and six youth headed west to see the Grand Canyon, Painted Desert, Mesa Verde National Park, and Denver and to hike the Rocky Mountains. Bonnie notes, “That trip made a huge difference in those kids’ lives. Three went on to earn college degrees, one of whom also has two master’s. One works in marketing for a major automobile company; one is a professional musician; and one works as a lead logistics specialist for a major auto supplier. 

Rose Martin first brought the idea of educational road trips to Peace, having seen how young people benefit from learning experiences beyond our local community. In 1972, she took a group of young people to Washington, D.C., where they had the opportunity to meet Sandy Levin, a US Congressman from Michigan, and Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress. That trip made a lasting impression on the youth who participated.

Most recently, in 2019, Peace staff took seven boys on a seven-day tour of important civil rights sites in Memphis, Selma, Montgomery, and Atlanta. On their way home, they stopped at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati. There they had the serendipitous opportunity to meet Pamela Alexander, Director of Community Relations at Ford Motor Company, who invited the group to a private preview of a new exhibit Ford was sponsoring: Men of Change: Power. Triumph. Truth.

Peace is looking to reinvest in future transformational road trips for our older youth. Bonnie notes:

“It’s not just about giving kids a fun time at the end of the summer. These trips have much deeper and wider benefits. If under-resourced kids have access to our wider world and experiences beyond their neighborhood, they have something tangible to relate to and the context for important discussions and conversations they often have in school and in the wider community. These trips make a huge difference in kids’ lives.”