By Matheson Williams Sharp

Frederick, Md. In times of duress man often finds the greatest empowerment from within, relying on personal fortitude to step out of the sullied shadows of indifference.  Discouraged by the perceived misdirection of their peers, a group of Hood College students undertook a crusade to help return morality and human ethical values to a society parched of dignity and compassion.

January 2011 played host to an awakening within Devon Tucker, 21 of Queens, NY.  “I looked at my people and demanded more.  We wanted the change that had looked so promising in 2008,” said Tucker over a coffee in Whitaker Student Center on the campus of Hood College.  “After we made a decision to expect more of ourselves, our fellow students began to step up to the plate.  Once people began to mobilize we realized that we had something special on our hands.”

The group drafted a constitution and became an officially recognized student organization within Hood College.  Since its inception The Last Train of Thought social initiative has grown steadily, both in Frederick and at Hood College, but also online.  With a Facebook group pushing 3,000 members and weekly meetings drawing attendance of approximately 40 people, an air of excitement hangs around the movement.  “We are going to be huge!” added Tucker with a smile.

After making contact with the Burck St. Boys and Girls Club, group members volunteer five days a week helping with homework, running activities and acting as mentors to the young girls and boys.  Through these sessions, a dedication to volunteerism blossomed as they began to build relationships.  “We began discussing how we possibly could go about exacting change,” said Chris Carson, 21, a Washington, DC, native and an instrumental party in the group’s foundation.  “To be a part of the change we felt we needed to influence the future, yet found the very minds we so sought were being neglected by school systems, class hierarchies and a stagnant social system that championed Jersey Shore.  Something had to give.”

Speaking with Tucker one is quickly drawn to his dynamism and charm.  Hood College Dean of Students, Dean Olivia White said “He is trying to do the right thing. Every step, thought, action and word makes a difference.  I can feel is passion for serving.” White has been a mentor to the group, saying “I saw a group of young men and women drawn to a cause of helping, giving hope.  They build relationships based on respect and make a real connection with these kids.  For many children they fill a gap in their life in a way no one else has because they care.” 

This enthusiasm could be found across campus in spontaneous debates in the dinning hall that pull people out of their comfort zones and challenge them to question their own thinking.  Tucker can frequently be found patrolling the cafeteria, sitting down with strangers and asking questions about what government means to people and how they feel about their personal representation within the system.  On the lunchroom discussions, Carson added, “Self reflection is important to us, it gave life to the whole movement.” 

Sunday nights bring the community Rap Sessions, an hour-long forum where ethical topics are discussed openly and at length.  Chairs are set up in a circle, emphasizing the fact that everyone is an equal, that every voice deserves respect and attention.  Videos are often shown to introduce topics, inspiring debate as the discussion moves around the circle in a colloquial manner.  At just an hour long, the sessions are an exercise in thinking, once again challenging the human mind to work.  Carson leads the discussions, often with the assistance of a Last Train of Thought member who volunteered the topic for the night, and challenges statements with questions to delve deeper into the thought process of the individual.  

The presence of participants from across generational lines and social classes, made up of both the Hood and Frederick communities, gives important perspective. Human power, domestic violence and faith in religion were all early topics at Rap Sessions and have done well to stimulate thought and conversation.  After a more recent meeting Tucker offered, “The best moment for us is when people leave at the end of Rap Sessions arguing as they walk out the door.  If a person feels passionately about something then we want to unlock that in them.  From then on it is out of our hands and into theirs.  That is what is so exciting about Last Train.

October 16 saw the first open general meeting of The Last Train of Thought for the 2011-2012 school year, an event that brought Judge Robert Bell, chief judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals, to speak.  School President Ronald Volpe, Dean of Students Olivia White and several influential faculty members were in attendance as speeches from Tucker and Carson highlighted the achievements of the initiative in the past year.  The evening closed with a speech by Judge Bell on his struggle in the civil rights movement and his unwillingness to submit to adversity over the course of his life, calling for the youth to not be afraid. The evening by an invitation to sign up for volunteer hours in varying institutions across Frederick, always looking for new members.

The group currently is involved with two locations of the Boys and Girls Club in Frederick, The Heather Ridge School, The Necktie Club and the Gentleman’s Club, as well as Last Train of Thought chapters that have been set up in local high schools and middle schools.  One project, however, gives the group an opportunity to leave a lasting mark on the community.  Earlier in the year Tucker was approached by Darren Gerald, of Frederick, Md., the head pastor at Strong Tower Christian Church. 

 Gerald had the idea of turning a section of a shopping center into a safe venue for teenagers to interact in a positive manner, and most importantly, in a safe and secure environment. The Last Train of Thought would be charged with refurbishing the empty building and turning it into a teen center, utilizing open space and installing a basketball court and lounge complete with televisions and gaming systems, as well as other entertainment facilities and a small kitchen.  The group plans to have a grand opening early 2012.

With the global potential of the Internet and the human network chain that is social media, the social change initiative known as The Last Train of Thought evolved from a conversation between close friends to a bastion of hope and altruism.  It began with an idea born out of the desolate winter landscape and has flourished into a vibrant initiative intent on making tangible social change.  As the group goes from strength to strength one is brought to a clear conclusion, the time has come with hope to hop on The Last Train of Thought.



Last Train of Thought founding members (L-R) : Chris Carson, Herb Bowen, DeVon Tucker, Rhian McHenry and Chris Mendez.

Last Train of Thought members at the Burck St. Boys and Girls Club