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Honors Fellows go behind the scenes in Boston

Lyon College Honors Fellows got a behind the scenes look at Boston’s history this August.

This was the first domestic trip for the honors fellows program, designed to promote camaraderie between the fellows and provide experience in an urban environment. Associate Professor of English Dr. Wesley Beal and Professor of Political Philosophy Dr. Scott Roulier led 21 honors students to the city, where they were guided on historical tours by alumnus Brad Austin, ‘94.

Junior Sabrina Denmon said Austin did a great job providing historical knowledge and context during the tours of Boston and Salem. In fact, Austin went beyond what was just in the history books.

“He gave us details on the Freedom Trail that we wouldn’t normally get from a history book,” she said. 

“There was one man, Lewis Hayden, who would give enslaved people clothes and get them out of the city. He even put gunpowder under his house and threatened to blow it up if people tried to take them back.”

Junior John Pruden said the fellows learned how a lot of African American history in Boston isn’t being told.

“You realize a lot of these tours are designed by white people for white people to promote white history,” he said. “This was my third trip to Boston, and a lot of the stuff Brad told me I was hearing for the first time.”

Pruden also appreciated how the tours focused on more than just famous figures from history.

“There was a big focus on the average person, which was cool because that often gets lost in history.”

Junior Melissa Elliott said the fellows got to experience many firsts on the trip.

“I’d never been on a plane before. The other honors fellows were great about giving me tips on what to bring and what not to bring.”

“The food was honestly my favorite part,” said junior Abigail Grimes. “We got to expand our culinary palate. We tried clam chowder, and Melissa and I went to Union Oyster House, one of the oldest restaurants in America, and tried oysters for the first time.”

“I’m going to miss the coffee in Boston,” Elliott said, laughing. “It was delightful.”

Denmon was excited to see Salem and visited a historical chocolate shop and printing office.

“I’m a history major, so the whole trip was really good for me. My favorite part of Salem was when we were wandering around the Federalist Dance Hall because they built the floor on top of springs. The whole group did a selfie where we jumped!”

Elliott was impressed by how forward-thinking the city was.

“Salem wasn’t caught up with its complicated history and the bad things that happened there. There was a focus on going forward that felt progressive.”

Pruden said he has traveled to Boston twice before, but this trip made the sprawling city feel small to him.

“After riding the metro myself, I started figuring out which line to take to the airport and which line to take to the hotel. I knew how to get where I was going, so the city felt within reach.”

“That makes me feel more confident about going to a big city for graduate school.”

Grimes enjoyed seeing the variety of cultures in Boston, including visiting ChinaTown and eating at a Taiwanese restaurant with the group.

“I didn’t realize there are so many different types of people in the big city, gathering together and living there.”

“It never felt like were were fetishizing other cultures on the trip,” Pruden said. “It was very respectful. I felt like we talked about history that mattered. In doing that, you’re going to get diversity because diverse perspectives matter.”

Having the freedom to explore the city helped the students learn to be more adaptable, he said.

“I enjoyed the freedom we had because if I had stuck to a rigid guideline I never would have experienced some things, like visiting an Irish Pub and talking about what made art meaningful with another fellow.”

“It showed me life isn’t as rigid as you think it is. When you take these things in stride, you can get a new perspective.”