STUDENTS | March 15, 2019
Nearly 700 African American and Latino male high school students gathered at Chicago State University for the 6th Annual Young Men of Color Summit.
This year’s theme, “Paving Your Path,” featured workshops, interactive presentations and activities to encourage students to confidently find their unique interests and get on the path of new opportunities.
The day kicked off with a series of informative breakout sessions. Students were first given the option to choose three workshops with topics ranging from applying to scholarships to defining character and leadership skills.
Demetrius Ready, Jr., a senior at Al Raby High School, said this was his first year attending the annual conference.
He said he participated in “Teach Chicago,” a workshop that reviewed the pathways, resources and benefits of becoming a teacher.
Ready said the workshop “opened his eyes” to how important events like the Young Men of Color Summit are.
“Events like these are important for men of color because it’s all about family,” said Ready. “Once we become a family, we can see the world differently.”
He said he also appreciated that the space allowed for him and others to openly discuss the low expectations men of color sometimes set for themselves.
“As men of color, the expectations are low,” Ready said. “We sometimes do things just to get by. I’m most excited to attend the session that discusses low expectations in our community.”
Another workshop, “The Medicine: How to Use Sacrifice & Commitment to Cure the Disease of Low Expectation,” was moderated by former Atlanta Falcons football player, Nosa Eguae.
Eguae said the theme, to diagnose, treat, and transform low expectations amongst young men of color, is his mission and purpose in life.
“There are a lot of people who see their world and their circumstances, and they limit their future accomplishments,” said Eguae. “The purpose of my life is to first be an example to these young men, and then to ensure students understand the fact that if they can aim for it, they can achieve it.”
Down the hall, other students attended “What is Black Manhood & Does it Matter?” The workshop featured an open dialogue that asked students how men of color are perceived in media and the entertainment industry.
Adrian Manuel, a junior at the Greater Lawndale School for Social Justice, recently founded the school’s first Black Student Union.
After attending the workshop, he said he’s hoping to bring some of the lessons he learned back to his meetings.
“We discussed why we need to fight against stereotypes to get what we want and deserve,” said Manuel. “I want to empower black men within my community and at my school to make a change and make something better of themselves.”
As the breakout sessions began to wrap up, students like Ready began to express how “happy” they were that they’d taken the step to attend the summit.
“I don’t really like field trips,” said Ready, “but I support this program all the way.”
He added that having a safe space to talk made him grateful for the experience.
“This is a great place to come to talk because people are open and they’ve been down your path before,” he said. “I know how it feels to not have that guidance in your life and to struggle. Everyone needs someone.”
Manuel said he hopes other students will take advantage of the summit for years to come.
“This is a very good opportunity for all of the African American and Latino males who chose to attend this year,” said Manuel. “I encourage people to come out here and take advantage of these opportunities.”
Check out a video of students from Gage Park High School explaining what they learned at the Young Men of Color Summit.