This post is part of a series covering an educational trip planned by University of Pennsylvania students for the men and women enrolled in the Veterans Upward Bound program. You can find more information here and here.
Josh Michnowski is one of the members of the Black Diamond Team that has benefited personally from the Veterans Upward Bound trip to Washington.
“It was enlightening and rewarding, Michnowski said. “When we were spending so much time working on the project, we always viewed it as a distant event that would be involving other people, even though we knew that we would be on it ourselves eventually.”
Michnowski and his team members spent countless hours outside of their Wharton School class schedules organizing, fundraising and problem solving in order to make the trip a success.
“We would often have a meeting at the beginning of the week for between 60 and 90 minutes,” he said. “Here, we would determine our tasks and goals for the rest of the week.”
Those tasks and goals involved securing transportation, setting up a tour of the campus of George Washington University, timing all of their stops and fitting in meals. They were also responsible for coming up with the money to cover any parts of the trip that would have to be paid for. That is a lot of work, even for experienced event planners.
“I don’t believe that any of us had ever had this kind of responsibility in terms of the amount of money we were dealing with, the commitment to 30 veterans and such independence to freely plan virtually every aspect of the trip,” Michnowski said.
But, Michnowski and his teammates worked hard. In the end, they had successfully gotten the Veterans Upward Bound students to the Capitol. Michnowski reflected on his most memorable part of the trip.
“Walking through the Vietnam War Memorial, I was so touched by hearing what the veterans were saying about themselves and their fellow soldiers during and after the war,” he said. “I never knew how much damage the Vietnam war caused, especially mentally. They went through so much and have faced so many challenges, but are incredibly optimistic about their futures.”
After having the opportunity to reflect on the trip, Michnowski has learned from the experience.
“I learned to appreciate the service that veterans have done for our country, which was given at the expense of incredible personal sacrifices that they have made,” he said.
Michnowski hopes that he can remain in contact with the veterans and the VUB program as he continues his studies at Penn. The team’s fundraising success has ensured that he will have at least one lasting tie to the program.
“We will hope to be involved in presenting the annual Wharton Black Diamonds VUB Scholarship for the next 4 years, as we have raised a surplus,” he said.
– Text and images by Bob Dieckmann and Zachary Rendin.