Muskegon Heights students awarded the trip of a lifetime

Posted at 4:30 AM, May 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-26 04:30:15-04

MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. -- A group of Muskegon Heights students have been awarded a trip to Africa but say they need your support to make it happen.

Muskegon Heights student, Juliyah Wilburn, said her first trip to Africa really left an impression on her.  Almost a year later she says she still feels at home there.  Wilburn and five other students were awarded the trip last year, and they are just six out of 18 students that have been on the trip since Paul Billings started taking students three years ago. She felt like this was a once in a life time experience.

"It just was an opportunity I could not pass up," Wilburn said.

Billings started the trip to show students the history of their ancestors. "I've been to the slave castles so many times and I was like it would be amazing if our kids could come here and see the journey that the ancestors went because you can not go down in the slave dungeons and not feel the spirit of your ancestors," Billings said of the trip.

During their trip to Ghana students not only learn about their history and culture, but visit a village, and experience an urban city that is thriving after a tormented past.

The all expenses paid trip is sponsored by billing's nonprofit, the west Michigan community help network and 103.7 the beat...but it is the community that helps each student reach the nearly three thousand dollar goal.

It's an experience that students work hard to go get. Students are selected through an essay contest, detailing what this trip will mean to them. This year, six students have been selected, including senior Airianna Hopson.

"It's going to be very emotional," Hopson said. "I just want to learn more information and more history behind the slave castles."

The typical household income in Muskegon is a little over $25,000 a year, so for many students in the area, trips like this just aren't possible. Every dollar contributed by community members makes the experience possible.

Muksegon Heights senior, Adasha Johnson, said, "think about giving a new generation a chance,"

The students leave for the trip on June 18th, but are still thousands of dollars away from their goal.

If you would like to help, they are accepting donations on gofundme and paypal.