Tennessee State University’s first HBCUs Outside outing was one for the books! The kayak outing on Duck River was an amazing way to introduce 15 newcomers to what this program is all about. The day was composed of laughter, giveaways, and nature.

Our trip started at our Agricultural complex, where everyone met for departure at 9:15 am. My co-ambassador and I were met with smiles as the students were already introducing themselves to each other. I could tell immediately this would be an amazing first outing from the vibrancy I saw early in the morning.

On the way to the river, we served a light breakfast and gave the itinerary for the day. Our destination was an hour away from campus, and we crossed through mountains and hills as we drove on the highway. Once we arrived, my co-ambassador got everything situated and we waited for the shuttle to take us to the river bank. We sparked conversation amongst ourselves and I explained more about HBCUs Outside. The students were excited and had a plethora of ideas for future events.

Around 11:30 am, we reached the bank where the kayaks were ready for use! The instructors informed us about river safety and what to do in case of an emergency. We took a group photo and were off on our 3-mile kayak journey. We embarked on a 4 hour trip of laughter, sightseeing, challenges, and music jamming. At the start, everyone who was a beginner slowly got accustomed to paddling, while more intermediate students gave them tips on how to maneuver better. It was heartwarming to see students help each other out. All along the river banks was luscious greenery that shaded us from the Tennessee sun. In the river, we saw schools of fish and turtles swimming gracefully through the water.

The trip also consisted of races for the more advanced students, who competed for National Park Trust themed swag. It was hilarious seeing them crash into each other as they paddled to the imaginary finish line. Due to lower river levels, some students got stuck on rocks, and we had other students getting out of their own kayaks to help them without hesitation. This was a long trip so many breaks were taken, but that gave us a chance to recuperate and get to know each other more.

Once the kayaking trip was completed, we had lunch. As we ate, I asked everyone how they would rate the trip and everyone gave at least an ‘8 out of 10.’ This was amazing to hear considering some people were not expecting to paddle for that long and we were out in the heat. Nonetheless, everyone said they enjoyed themselves and outwardly expressed their love for seeing nature around them. I’m grateful that students had a blast and hope this energy can transfer over to our upcoming event!