Opportunity Summit offers Detroit youth hope, insight, skills

On Monday November 14, My Brother’s Keeper Alliance brought together nearly 1,100 young males of color and more than 40 companies to Cobo Center Detroit for their Pathways to Success Boys and Young Men of Color Opportunity Summit, where more than 350 job offers were made. The Opportunity Summit offered resume-building assistance, practice interviews, haircuts, ties, four workshops, job application stations, professional headshots, on-the-spot interviews, and other career services. 

mbk summit 2016

An even more powerful contribution was one that cannot be measured in numbers, but  was clearly seen at the summit: the significant investment of parents, teachers, mentors, community leaders, volunteers, organizations, corporations and many others in the future of our young men. The synergy produced by willing individuals coming together became a catalyst in the lives of countless youth as their eyes were opened to new opportunities that they had been longing for. 

“I’ve been trying to get a job; I have applied online to over seven different places… today I got a job offer! I will be getting an email within 48 hours,” said 17-year-old Montez Fields. 

Parents took the day off work to take their sons to the event. Teachers, coaches and mentors made arrangements to bring their students. Community leaders supported and promoted the event. 

More than 600 volunteers, staff and supporters offered their time, skills and energy. Professionals from Detroit seized the opportunity to encourage the youth, and give back to the community that contributed to their development. 

“I’m on a list of volunteer opportunities in the city of Detroit and when this came up, I saw it as an opportunity to encourage our youth,” said Jacques Kabongo, senior account manager at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Jacques served at the interview station where he encouraged and directed youth. As they waited for their interviews, Jacques gave them some last minute pointers to ease their nerves. 

“I saw the ad on Friday, I talked to my manager and now I’m here helping the kids with how to dress professionally,” said Michael Stanbrough, civil engineer at Parsons Brinckerhoff. Michael helped young men try on blazers just moments before they went to their interviews. 

Corporations were represented in booths offering information; some donated goods and services. A tie bar sponsored by Macy’s gave away 450 new ties to those who needed them. 

“We’ve been able to teach hundreds of young men how to tie a tie… but it’s more than a tie, because they’ll have a thousand ties throughout their life, I hope. It’s like we gave them a skill that they didn’t have before, and they can walk away feeling more empowered,” said a volunteer at the tie bar. 

The summit offered diverse opportunities. The workshop titled “the other side of sports” addressed a crucial topic; former athletes discussed their behind-the-scenes experiences in professional sports. This workshop provided insight into the reality of short-lived professional sports careers and the skills needed to build a life post-NFL. Former Detroit Lions player, Ron Rice referred to the NFL as “Not For Long.” 

“When opportunity was taken away from me, I turned to education,” said Rice.  

Many young boys set their sights on NFL dreams, only to get injured even before graduating high school. 

“My dream job is to play in the NFL,” said 15-year-old Julian Smith. 

“I was going to play football in college but I dislocated my shoulder and I can’t play anymore. I wanted to play football in the NFL,” said 17-year-old high school senior, Terrence Barker referring to his dream career. 

In addition to My Brother's Keeper Alliance, the summit was sponsored by the City of Detroit, Campaign for Black Male Achievement, Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Skillman Foundation. 

My Brother’s Keeper Alliance is a nonprofit born out of President Obama’s call to action aimed at helping boys and young men of color to have access to equal opportunities and reach their full potential. For more information, visit www.mbkalliance.org.

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Francis Cruz

Francis Cruz-Aldrett

Francis Cruz-Aldrett is a public relations student at Wayne State University in Detroit. 
Follow her on twitter at @FrancisVascruz

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