More Than 500 Attend 5th Annual Young Men of Color Summit
STUDENTS | March 19, 2018
More Than 500 Attend 5th Annual Young Men of Color Summit

Advocacy, time management and self love were just a few of the takeaways that African-American and Latino male high school students received while attending the 5th Annual Young Men of Color Summit last Friday.

The conference reinforced positive images of African-American and Latino men, and facilitators stressed to the young participants the importance of changing the narrative and becoming a barrier breaker.

Through a partnership with Morehouse College’s Hope Dealers and The Chicago GEAR-UP Alliance, CPS hosted the Making the Dream a Reality for a New Generation of Leaders Summit at DePaul University’s Lincoln Park Student Center, 2250 N. Sheffield Ave. Leon Rogers of WGCI was the event’s moderator. The two keynote speakers included Carlos Ojeda, Jr. of CoolSpeaks, a youth engagement company, and former Chicago Bulls shooting guard Craig Hodges.

In one break-out session young men were encouraged to use their voice through writing and advocacy. They watched Spike Lee’s documentary “The Letter,” about Hodges and then drafted a letter to their alderman about concerns that they had in their community.

“Not everybody is going to be  a social activist, not everybody is going to be a Colin Kaepernick or a Craig Hodges, but I think everyone has a portion to play within their community,” Hodges said after the summit.

He said that he hopes that the high schoolers remember that each choice they make has a consequence.

The one-day conference is designed to prepare ninth through 12th-grade African American and Hispanic males for both personal and professional success through college and career knowledge exposure. They learned how to access college scholarships, apply for internships, and summer jobs, as well as mentorship programs and initiatives.

Dante Martin, 18, a Lake View High School senior, attended the “Self-Care and Self-Love” breakout session.

“I feel like you have to be a little selfish before you can be selfless, which means you have to take care of yourself,” he said. “You have to make sure you’re okay before you can help anyone else out.”

In “Boss Your Life,” another breakout session, students gained skills in four main categories: professional attitude, teamwork ethic, time management and problem solving.

In the beginning of the workshop they participated in a strengths and skills assessment led by facilitator Derrick Fleming. On six colored post-its attached to a blank sheet of white paper, the young men were asked questions like Who are you? What do you want to do this summer? What’s one of your strengths?  What’s something you struggle with?

“Always holding myself accountable,” said one student.

Fleming asked for an example.

“Like this morning, I got up late and kept my brothers waiting,” said the student.

“So time management, that’s something you’ll need work on,” Fleming said.

The group was also asked about some of their goals. One student said he wanted a ‘C’ in geometry.

“You can aim higher,” Fleming said, explaining how they should always push themselves further and create stretch goals in life.

Down the hall, another group of young men were listening attentively in “Secure the Bag: Understanding and Accessing CPS Scholarships” lead by Michele Howard, in the CPS department of Counseling and Postsecondary Education.

Although a senior, the tips and advice was right on time for Gwendolyn Brooks HS senior Sergio Gonzalez.

“I got a Pell grant, but that’s only covering a portion so if I can come out of college debt free that would be amazing,” said the 17-year-old East Side resident.

“I honestly think more people should pay attention to scholarships,” he said. “I had trouble myself trying to figure out where I wanted to go and if it wasn’t for this [session] I wouldn’t know where to apply at for scholarships.”

Many students shared that they didn’t want to attend, but once they arrived and saw what the conference was all about, they had no regrets.

“At first I didn’t want to come and I just came to get out of school, but I learned about preparing for college and I like this event,” said Harlan HS freshman Terrance Ford.

Lake View High School freshman and Logan Square resident, Luis Garduno, said he’s going to start planning for college now.

“This has been a really good experience,” he said. “It’s one of the best experiences I’ve had.”