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Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion


“If you’ve got a big question, hit the road. That’s where the answers are.”

The road is where David McCullough III, co-founder and CEO of the “American Exchange Project” (AEP) discovered his passion and came up with his concept for the nonprofit. 

McCullough addressed the Emmanuel College community on March 18th as part of the College’s 2nd annual Equity Week, organized by Emmanuel’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access Through Action (IDEAA) Committee. Equity Week, March 13th – 20th, is composed of events and discussions meant to continue Emmanuel’s mission as an institution to foster an inclusive environment for all. 

AEP, which was formed in 2019 and launched its pilot in 2021, sends high school seniors on a free weeklong trip to a town that is very different from their own.  

Through the program, McCullough and AEP are striving to build more understanding and lessen the polarization of the country by bringing students of different socioeconomic backgrounds together.  

“We clearly need this now more than ever,” said Professor of Sociology Catherine Bueker. Dr. Bueker’s son was part of the very first AEP cohort in 2021, which consisted of 20 students. Last year, AEP partnered with 53 schools in 31 states – with the goal of getting one-million students involved by 2030. 

McCullough shared some of the reasoning behind the project, theorizing that the polarization and division in the country stems from people not knowing or understanding each other well enough. To build that compassion and understanding from the ground up, AEP helps high school seniors to get to know others their age from different backgrounds. 

 “We feel it’s been driven by the fact that three quarters of white people don’t have a friend who’s not white. Forty percent have never met a farmer, two-thirds have never met a Native American. But we all have opinions about people who are different from us. My feeling is that we shun each other because we don’t know each other,” he said. 

The question for the program’s initial cohort was: will the students get along and will they appreciate each other’s’ differences – and they did. After that initial success, the program continued to expand. This year, AEP is sending 637 students on trips during the summer in 63 towns and 34 states. 

“My feeling is that this ought to be as normal to the high school experience as the senior prom, and that ‘where am I going to go and who am I going to host’ is a typical question on the mind of the American kid,” said McCullough. 

Having been a college student himself when he began hatching the AEP idea, McCullough encouraged the Emmanuel students in attendance to pursue their passions, ask the tough questions and seek out their goals. 

“Nobody has better ideas than you do right now,” he said. 

To read more about the remaining Equity Week events, click here.