Journey of a Lifetime for a New Jersey Teacher

April 18, 2008 9:29:49 PM PDT
A New Jersey teacher who made an incredible cross country trip on horseback made a stop in Merced this week to spread a message that's not often heard.Miles Dean set out on horseback from New York City in September as a man on a mission. He rode more than six thousand miles through 13 states to raise awareness about the role of black cowboys in shaping American history.

Miles Dean: "I'm a trail rider, so I thought the ultimate ride would be coast to coast. But then as a school teacher I also did not want to be out there and not have something positive to say."

Dean crossed through dangerous deserts, traversed treacherous mountain ranges, and even rode in the slow lane of one interstate before arriving in Los Angeles six months later. But the 58 year old says his journey was more about spreading a message than reaching a destination.

Miles Dean: "My message was about the contribution of African Americans between the 1500's and 1800's to the exploration, expansion and development of the United States."

Dean shared that history with students at several schools along the way, including Yosemite High in Merced.

Miles Dean: "Slavery was just a little drop in the bucket of our 6000 year history."

He also showed off his horse, Sankofa one of two trusty steeds that carried him cross-country.

Steven Martinez, Yosemite High Student: "I like that, it shows that they care about our school. I didn't think they would come to Yosemite High School."

Merced School Teacher Lyndell Johnson was one of several volunteers who helped Dean throughout his journey. She drove into California's Chocolate Mountains to give him water when the terrain became especially difficult to navigate. She also convinced dean to visit the continuation campus.

Lyndell Johnson: "I want the students to see and from listening to him there are things in life that will put blocks in front of you, but if you keep pressing forward, you can overcome those blocks and be a successful person."

That's another lesson Dean hopes his historic ride will instill.

Miles Dean: "Follow your dream. Never give up on the dream that you have to do something, and whatever it is that you do, make it rewarding for yourself and someone else."


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