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Vikings Join Project Success Students on Impactful Visit to Washington, D.C.


The Minnesota Vikings are grateful to have teamed up on the below event with Delta Air Lines, which donated academic scholarships to each attending student.

Ty Chandler has visited plenty of cities but had never been to Washington, D.C.

That changed last month when Chandler joined Vikings teammates Harrison Phillips and Brandon Powell, along with Vikings Legend Visanthe Shiancoe, on a special trip to our nation's capital.

The Vikings once again partnered with Project Success and Delta Air Lines to take 11 Minneapolis public high school students on the annual journey to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

"It was such a cool experience to see the rich history. There's so much there that grabs your attention about our culture and how it came about," Chandler said. "Just to be able to take kids there to share that experience and see their viewpoint was truly amazing.

"To do it with teammates, white and Black teammates, it was also very inspirational to get different points of view," Chandler added.

The Vikings running back appreciated the opportunity to connect with young people, each of whom was selected from a different Minneapolis high school, as they toured the expansive museum.

The feeling was mutual.

Sylena Sanders initially felt intimidated by the NFL athletes but soon settled in and was thankful for their down-to-earth nature.

"It was a great experience and opportunity to get to know them and talk to them and know their stories and backgrounds," Sanders said. "They have so many fans and people who love them, but then you get to spend that time with them. Not only spending time, but being in an African American Museum with them, learning about your history and culture … talking to them and even reflecting on what we've seen in the museum was great."

Project Success Executive Director and Founder Adrienne Diercks said the organization's purpose has remained steadfast since its founding 30 years ago.

"Our mission has not changed. It is to inspire young people to dream about their future, help them take the steps to get there and give them opportunities of excellence that will help them gain the tools that will take them through the rest of their lives," Diercks said. "When the players join the students on these opportunities, they're going together, they learn from each other and they learn at the same time, and it's really, really special.

"At Project Success when we talk about connecting students to their purpose, that is all about exploration," Diercks continued. "It's about having opportunities of excellence, both local and far away to explore, 'Who am I? What's out there in the world, and where do I want to go in that world? Where is my place in that world?'

"It's an incredible, unique experience, and we could not be more grateful to the Minnesota Vikings, the entire organization and the Wilf family," she added.

Chandler noted the intentional design of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, where visitors start out on an underground, dimly lit level that tells the story of slavery.

With each level of the museum, the exhibits' content – and actual lighting – brightens.

"To see it go from level to level and to watch the unique ways African Americans have thrived, whether it's sports or music or history, that was kind of a unique setup. … It was really cool to see," Chandler said.

De'Morian Harvell, one of the Project Success students, shared Chandler's sentiments.

"The museum was really deep for me. It was kind of hard starting out, but then as we built our way up, just to see the uprising of culture and history, it was really – it found something in my heart," he said. "You could feel all the energy there. It was a great experience.

"And [it was incredible how] we can all just click together, even though we barely knew each other," Harvell added. "It felt safe. It felt like I could be myself."

The museum visit occurred on the second day of the Vikings trip to D.C. On the first evening, the group had a dinner together and each student was surprised with a backpack and a $1,000 scholarship, thanks to Delta Air Lines, to support their next steps in education.

View photos of running back Ty Chandler, defensive lineman Harrison Phillips, and wide receiver Brandon Powell with Minneapolis high school students during a Project Success trip to Washington, D.C.

Sanders said the scholarship further fueled her post-graduation goals.

"It's something that you can look back on and be like, 'OK, well, I know I did this, I know I can do that' … use that as strength, use that as something that you can take with you on your path forward. Use that as motivation," Sanders said. "I feel like, 'Yeah, we got the check; we got the backpack; but how is that going to motivate you to do what you want to do? How are you gonna use that backpack?' "

Izaiah Freeman, who will be a senior at Roosevelt High School, said the scholarship and experience with the Vikings encouraged him to stay the course.

"It meant a lot," he said. "I feel like I had that type of support to make it where I want to go. My dream has always been to go pro, either in football or basketball. Being able to talk to [the Vikings players] and see them has had a great impact on my life."

"I do really want to go to LSU or UCLA, so I'm definitely going to put the scholarship toward [going to] college," Freeman added.

Whether it's Freeman and his high school peers or Chandler and his teammates, participants of the Project Success trip will continue reflecting today as they recognize Juneteenth, a federal holiday that honors June 19, 1865.

More than two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation executive order to free enslaved African Americans, Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas, with news of freedom. More than 250,000 African Americans embraced independence by executive decree in what became known as Juneteenth or Freedom Day.

"It's so important because we don't learn everything in school, you know? Sometimes it takes years and years to learn. … There are still things I didn't know that I learned at the African American Museum," Chandler said. "So I feel like it's a really important and unique opportunity – one everyone should take advantage of if they can, to view the museum.

"It can start those organic, real conversations around difficult topics. They can be hard to talk about, but it's the reality of our history. I feel like that's good for us to dive into and acknowledge, to spread knowledge and understanding," Chandler added. "It allows us to learn from each other and learn how we can better help each other. So I feel like that's really important, and I'm so glad I got to experience it with [different perspectives]."