Young Texans visit, contribute|[04/26/07]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 26, 2007

Nearly 100 Texas students are getting a firsthand look at Vicksburg history this week and are contributing to a city project.

Wednesday, the group of 7th-graders from the Fort Worth Country Day School presented a $200 donation for the mural project at City Front to Vicksburg Riverfront Mural Committee chairman Nellie Caldwell.

&#8220Thank you all so much,” Caldwell told the group. The students are making a &#8220huge impact” she said by contributing to the mural project and visiting the city’s historic attractions.

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In turn, Caldwell presented the students with a framed print featuring scenes depicting Vicksburg’s transition from a village to a city.

The students are spending four days here visiting historic attractions including the Vicksburg National Military park, tour homes and the Old Court House Museum.

Mayor Laurence Leyens was among the city officials gathered to welcome the students at the murals.

&#8220I hope you have a great time here,” said Leyens. &#8220I’m very impressed that a group of students from Texas” is visiting the city, he said. Then Leyens joked, &#8220Anybody who wants to be mayor, I’ll give up my job.” Several hands shot up.

Although the Wednesday mural ceremony was threatened by rain and briefly interrupted by a passing train, the trip so far has been amazing, said history teacher and trip leader Tara Forrest. This is the second year she’s brought a group of students to Vicksburg. The city’s rich history and friendly faces were the main reason Forrest chose to return for a second year.

&#8220The people are great,” said Forrest, adding that this is the closest military battlefield.

As part of their lessons, said Forrest, the students researched attractions, historical sites and elements of 19th century life in Louisiana and Mississippi and created a workbook. Forrest said students must fill in the blanks in the books as a trip assignment.

Tuesday, 12 students participated in re-enactments at the military park but all the lessons on the trip are not outdoors.

Wednesday evening, students studied 19th century fugitive slave law and Friday their knowledge will be put to the test at the Old Court House Museum. That’s when a group of the students will participate in a mock trial in the case defending a runaway slave and his owner.

Although dressing up as a soldier and pretending to be a guy was not the highlight of the trip for student Kat Hyde, she said she’d still like to return to the River City on her own.

&#8220I just like the feel,” of Vicksburg, she said. &#8220It’s not busy,” like Fort Worth.

Fellow student Lauren Williams agreed. &#8220I just think that this is so cool – this is where history happened.”