As the trip came to an end, Derrick Brooks read through the students' journals and added his own comments
All good things come to an end, and for the "Brooks' Bunch and Beyond 2003" travelers, the end came in the form of a bus ride that pulled up to the steps of the Belmont Heights Boys & Girls Club at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday.
The final day of the eleven-day educational field trip led by NFL Defensive Player of the Year Derrick Brooks began with an early wake-up call and a hearty breakfast. The 29 Brooks' Bunch students congregated in the common room of Florida State's Bryan Hall dormitory, waiting to load the bus for a trip Ginnie Springs and a day of tubing. However, before the day began, Brooks had one final surprise for his youthful charges.
The Brooks' Bunch and Beyond 2003 tour took the 29 students through four cities (New York, Chicago, Atlanta and Tallahassee) and introduced them to a variety of educational and professional establishments. Though the final day of the trip was to be spent mostly on fun and relaxation, Brooks wanted his group to meet two more people.
Brooks' knew that this pair of professionals would have an impact on the students; he just wasn't sure they would make it back from Europe on time to meet the group. But, like the true friends they are, Ben Crump and Daryl Parks came through, arriving on the FSU campus early in the morning, in plenty of time to touch the lives of the next generation. Brooks introduced his two friends and informed the students that Crump and Parks had formed their own law firm after graduating from college and now had one of the most successful practices in Tallahassee.
Crump spoke first, touching on such topics as learning the true meaning of success, working toward goals and cherishing experiences such as the ones provided by Brooks on this journey.
"Some people are outstanding athletes, others are intellectually gifted, but everybody has a special gift," said Crump. "Your job is to find your special gift and work hard at it for the rest of your life. If you do that, I guarantee you'll be grateful."
Parks continued along the same lines, encouraging the students to focus on their skill set to make them more qualified prospects for employment. Parks' main message was to encourage the students to try different things and experience as much as they can while they are young, so they can better understand what they would like to do as adults.
"No one knows what failures and successes they may have throughout life," said Parks. "So I encourage you to not be afraid of failure and discover everything you possibly can about yourself."
Crump and Parks were accomplished orators and quite inspiring, but it was the next part of the presentation that really wowed the students. After the chat, Crump introduced five members of the step team from the Theta Chi chapter of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity at Florida State University.
The five young men took the floor and performed three incredible numbers, the students enthusiastically clapping along and wondering about the time and effort that goes into the routines. The fraternity brothers took time to answer all of the student's questions about college and fraternity life before Brooks' Bunch had to depart for their return trip home.
"I enjoyed the whole trip," said Brooks' Bunch veteran Cyndi Bailey. "It gave me a lot ideas of colleges to explore and now I have more options to look at."
The return trip featured a stop for tubing at Ginnie Springs, just outside of Gainesville. Most of the kids enjoyed the spring; others played volleyball or took time to write in the journals they were required to keep during the trip. Brooks relaxed under a shaded picnic area, reading and writing comments in the margins of the students' journals.
Before the final bus ride that would end back in Tampa, several of the Brooks' Bunch members surprised their leader with a musical number in memory of the life-changing trip. Sung to the tune of "He Had it Comin'" from the musical Chicago, with interludes based on Jennifer Lopez's "Jenny from the Block" and the Temptations' "My Girl," the students chronicled in song the adventures and misadventures of the 11-day journey.
As he listened, Brooks smiled but seemed a bit sad that this year's journey was coming to an end. He hoped that the adventure had provided the students with inspiration and information.
"It's a wonderful group of kids and I just hope somebody's life was impacted," said Brooks. "I'm just grateful I could provide this opportunity."