Tuesday, September 13, 2016
Hundreds of young men and 70 plus mentors connect for a day focused on careers, college, life, and success.
“Good grades equal good money.”
“No matter what people say I can’t do, I can accomplish my goals.”
“Sports are great, but I need to focus on my academics too.”
“Surround myself with positive people who are going in the same direction.”
“Dedication and perseverance.”
These are just a few of the comments made by attendees at the end of the 7th Annual Striving for Success: Black Male Summit.
Over 300 African-American 8th, 9th and 10th grade young men participated in a half day set aside for goal setting, role modeling and getting connected to programs and opportunities. The Summit was presented by the Urban League of Nebraska, 100 Black Men of Omaha and Empowerment Network.
“The young men did a great job today,” said Thomas Warren, CEO of the Urban League. “They were focused and participated actively.”
“The groups just keep getting better and better,” added James Mason, Executive Director of the 100 Black Men of Omaha. “It’s encouraging to see them paying close attention and making the most of the day.”
The mentors represented a who’s who of African-American leaders in Omaha. Former Police Chief Thomas Warren, John Ewing – Douglas County Treasurer, Terence “Bud” Crawford – World Champion Boxer, Timothy Christian – President of NightFox Entertainment, Pastor Cedric Perkins, Bishop Lance Foster, Tyrone Marshall – Urban League of Nebraska, Richard Webb – Caesars Entertainment and many others, including; educators, youth development experts, authors, neighborhood leaders, law enforcement, crime prevention specialists, real estate agents, health professionals, bankers, sales and marketing executives, media consultants, business owners and coaches. High school seniors, college students, young professionals and seasoned leaders alike dedicated the day and also committed to long-term mentoring, coaching and role modeling.
“I’m thankful and appreciative that they took the time to share their experiences with us,” said one of the participants.
The day started with a powerful speech from Jon Lucas, Operations Supervisor from Omaha Public Schools. Lucas also presented last year and was asked back by popular demand. He emphasized the importance of each person making the most of their skills and talents.
“We don’t want you to leave the same way you came in here today,” said Lucas. “Take advantage of every opportunity. Say yes to learning. Say yes to education. Say yes to your future.”
Luncheon keynote speaker, Dr. Tommy Watson, CEO of T.A. Watson Speaking and Consulting, shared his powerful story of overcoming a family beset with drug addiction and brothers and sisters negatively impacted by the foster care and prison systems. He told the attendees how he was able to navigate the turbulence and turmoil by focusing on sports and academics.
“One of my worst memories was the day we were evicted from our house and they threw all of our belongings out in the front yard,” said Watson. “All of our neighbors and my friends were laughing and making fun of us.”
Watson shared how the negative circumstances could have led him down the wrong path like some of his siblings, but he decided to show his family that he was going to make something of himself.
His persistence and dedication led him to a scholarship to play football at the University of Minnesota. After an injury ended his athletic career, he doubled down on academics and hasn’t looked back. Watson attained multiple degrees and became a highly successful high school principal. He now travels the nation sharing his inspiring story of resilience as a keynote speaker, coach and consultant.
“I’ve been able to achieve tremendous success off the field,” said Watson, “because of my achievements in the classroom.”
Watson ended his speech with a compelling message on values, vision and verbal affirmations.
He closed with a strong affirmation including the following words: “I am somebody. I will be the best that I can be. Each day. I will not waste time, because it’s too valuable, and I am too precious and bright.”
“The young men loved it,” said Tyrone Marshall, director of education and youth development at the Urban League of Nebraska. “They had nothing but good things to say about the day and truly appreciated this opportunity.”
The young men were recruited and signed up at Omaha Public Schools and a few private schools for this well-received event. They were introduced to African-American men representing dozens of various occupations.
The day also included breakout “real talk” sessions where the young men discussed a variety of topics including police/community relations, positive relationships, careers, college, politics, business ownership and peer pressure. They participated in interactive polling and provided direct feedback through evaluations.
Engineer, nurse, entrepreneur, game designer, music producer, aeronautical science, sports medicine, physical therapist, and social worker. These are just a few of the careers aspired to by the participants. It’s vitally important for them to see men who look like them in these professions.
In its seventh year, the summit and other collaborative efforts between the schools and community partners are producing measurable results. Ten years ago, the graduation rate for African-American young men was 49%. Now, the rate is hovering around 70% and moving towards the 90% goal. Record numbers of African-American young men are now entering and completing college. Thousands have been connected to successful programs, services, and employment opportunities. During the summer months, gun violence is down 80% in North Omaha since 2007!
“There’s nothing like this in the country,” said Len Gordy, assistant coach for the Creighton Bluejays. “The young men were attentive, focused and very interactive. This is a day I look forward to every year.”
For more information or to get involved with on-going efforts, please contact The Urban League of Nebraska at urbanleagueneb.org, 100 Black Men of Omaha at www.100blackmenomaha.org or the Empowerment Network at empoweromaha.com.
Hundreds of young 9th grade African-American young men with World-Champion Boxer, Terence “Bud” Crawford (center). Crawford participated actively and interacted with the young men throughout the 7th Annual Striving for Success: Black Male Summit hosted by the 100 Black Men of Omaha, Urban League of Nebraska and African-American Empowerment Network.