Editor’s Note: JB+A is proud to share this special piece with you, which showcases former JB+A Consultant and current colleague and friend, Bill Sellers. Bill is President of Journey Through Hallowed Ground, a nonprofit partnership that promotes and supports civic engagement through history education, economic development through heritage tourism and the preservation of cultural landscapes in a 180-mile corridor from Gettysburg, PA through Maryland and Harpers Ferry, WV to Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville, VA.
Bill Sellers feels there is a “crisis in historical and civic literacy.” A recent report by the National Assessment of Educational Progress concluded that only 18% of high school seniors showed proficiency in their knowledge of American history and 23% were proficient in civics. Of the seven subjects included in the Report, students scored lowest in their knowledge of U.S. history.
Bill is actively doing something to reverse these statistics — by providing future leaders with a “multidimensional, contextual understanding of history and its figures.” Bill developed the National History Academy, a five-week residential summer program for high school students to not just learn American history, but live it.
Bill Sellers describes the vision for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: walking in the footsteps of leaders who helped define and shape the American story including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Brown, Harriet Tubman, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr., and where soldiers fought for the birth and survival of this nation. Students will experience traditional classroom learning, but more importantly, visit 42 sites within the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area.
The region was placed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of the 11 most endangered places in the United States in 2005, was declared by Congress as a National Heritage Area in 2008, and Route 15/20 was named a National Scenic Byway in 2009. The Journey includes 12 National Parks, nine presidential sites, 30 historic Main Street communities, dozens of Civil War battlefields, and over 100 sites related to the fight for Civil Rights.
The mission of the Academy is to “foster an understanding of key events, people and issues in the country’s history and to engage our nation’s future leaders in the rights and duties of American citizenship through place-based, experiential learning.” Its motto, “Historia Est Magistra Vitae” is taken from Cicero’s De Oratore and means “history is the teacher of life.”
Highly motivated students in 10th, 11th and 12th grades may apply. The application process includes a short application and a short response to the question, “Tell us why you want to be a part of the National History Academy in two paragraphs.”
Applications will be reviewed by a committee and judged on maturity of response and understanding of the topic. One-hundred students will be accepted into the Academy. Successful applicants will then be invited to register for the Academy, which runs June 24 to July 28, 2018. A limited amount of financial aid is available.
To learn more about the National History Academy, visit here.
To learn more about Journey Through Hallowed Ground, visit here.
Bill and the Academy are also featured in the May-June 2018 issue of Harvard Magazine, which is published by a separately incorporated nonprofit affiliate of Harvard University, Bill’s alma mater.