Flint high school students take college tour, get an unfortunate lesson on racism

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FLINT (WJRT) - (04/15/15) - What started off as an educational trip for a group of Flint high school students left them with an unfortunate lesson on racism.

Brittany Clerkley and a group of about 90 adults and teens were wrapping up a college tour. On their way back to Flint, their bus had mechanical issues. They ended up spending the night at the Econo Lodge in Live Oak, Florida.

Coordinator Blake Odum says right after dinner, is when the trip took a much different and disturbing tone.

"It was owned by white people. And they started taking pictures of all the kids as we were walking in and out of the hotel," said student Melissa Blacque.

"I heard one of the ladies, she said, 'If i see one more of them, I'm calling the law,'" Odum said.

Blacque says the students were peaceful, but felt uncomfortable at the hotel.

"They were calling us the N word and called Blake the N word. We were just like 'whoa,'" Blacque said.

Odum says things felt so tense that to avoid any trouble, he tried to be proactive by calling police. When police arrived, they told the group to stay in their rooms for the night. Odum says the officer left him with a chilling message.

"The officer pulled me to the side and said, 'You know, I just want to let you know this area right off the interstate, people aren't too accommodating to you all.' And he said, 'If you know what I mean.' I said, 'Black people?' And he said, 'Yeah,'" Odum said.

The students tell ABC 12 overnight, the staff antagonized them. The group says they were told to check out the next morning immediately at 10.

As they left, that's when Odum says tensions reached a boiling point, when he says he heard the manager say, "'We're going to get these N****rs off our property.' And I was blown back by that," Odum said.

"To hear it come from an adult directly at children and then to our adviser in front of us was just like, 'wow," Blacque said.

ABC12 reached out to the Econo Lodge, but our call was never returned.

"They should not get away with treating people like that," Clerkley said.

We asked Odum for the reason why the group did not switch to another hotel.

"The bus company put us at this hotel even though we advised them against it. We were advised by the daughter of the owner of the bus company. She said her dad wanted to put us there because that was the most cost effective. And we were looking at what was the most safe. And they didn't take that into consideration," he said.

Odum says they plan on taking legal action and have already called the hotel's corporate headquarters.

Outside of the incident, leaders say the college tour was very successful and will continue next year.