By Wanda Johnson, Clemson Inclusion & Equity
In 2018, all of the 69 high school seniors who participated in Clemson University’s Tiger Alliance program completed high school and 92 percent enrolled in college or in the military post-graduation. The students, from nine Upstate high schools, are part of a college-access program for African-American and Hispanic males that kicks off every year at Clemson University’s Men of Color National Summit.
On April 25-26, young men once again will convene at the Men of Color National Summit along with other high school and college students, business professionals, educators, government officials and community leaders from around the country. The sold-out crowd of more than 2,000 attendees will gather at the Greenville Convention Center to identify and promote strategies that foster success from cradle to career.
Tiger Alliance students are the heart of what the summit is about: creating a clear pathway to college for students through involvement and engagement.
“The Summit is all about engagement, which is one of four pillars supporting Clemson’s strategic priorities.” said Lee Gill, chief inclusion officer and special assistant to the president on inclusive excellence at Clemson University. “We want our young men to see themselves through the lens of the highly successful men and women speaking to them. Our keynote speakers and session presenters will pour into students words of wisdom and shared or connected life experiences to help strengthen the resolve of a generation of leaders that happen to be our students.”
Over the two days, attendees will hear from an impressive lineup of speakers that include innovative leaders in education, government and the business world.
The summit speakers and presenters include:
- Geoffrey Canada, author; founder of Harlem Children’s Zone Inc.;
- Ronald Estrada, senior vice president for corporate social responsibility and community empowerment, Univision Communications Inc.;
- Anton J. Gunn, author, leadership consultant, presidential adviser, diversity officer;
- Melissa Harris-Perry, Maya Angelou Presidential Chair, founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Center and Wake the Vote, Wake Forest University;
- Freeman Hrabowski, president, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County;
- Joy Thomas Moore, president and CEO of JWS Media Consulting, Peabody Award-winner, mother of author Wes Moore; and
- Pedro Noguera, Distinguished Professor of Education, faculty director for the Center for the Transformation of Schools at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA).
Attendees will also be able to choose from more than 45 breakout sessions covering such topics as “Seven Steps to Make Adversity your Advantage” and “My Destiny Is Great; Now How Do I Get There?”
“The summit is an especially powerful experience for the students who attend because they are able to see for themselves how many people support their success,” said Julio Hernandez, chief of staff in Clemson’s Division of Inclusion and Equity. “When resources are made available to these young men and they receive mentoring, their professional and personal growth is limitless.”
Hernandez connected with Tiger Alliance students as a mentor. His experience as a first-generation college graduate helps him relate to the challenges they face. Many of the students will be the first in their families to go to college, too.
“The young men who participate in the Tiger Alliance program will find this summit is all about connections,” said Matthew Kirk, associate director of Tiger Alliance. “This is the first time they are connecting to the powerful network that they are now a part of and it’s also an opportunity for them to connect with new ideas that move them forward toward success.”
Motivational speaker and a Summit favorite Brian Heat will take his message directly to some Upstate schools.
“We are beyond excited to have Brian Heat travel with us to three of our Tiger Alliance partner schools, Westside High School in Anderson District 5 and Legacy Early College and Berea high schools in Greenville County on Wednesday, April 24, to ignite our students and add a whole new dimension to their Men of Color Summit experience,” Kirk said. “This new addition to the Men of Color Summit will allow us to impact over 2,000 students in the Upstate!”
In its third year, the Men of Color National Summit is not only focused on empowering future leaders, but also creating environments that help all students thrive.
“I am proud that Clemson is once again hosting the Men of Color National Summit because it is important that we continue the conversation about how to close the achievement gap for young men of color,” said Clemson University President James P. Clements. “As a land-grant institution, part of our mission is to improve the lives of the people of South Carolina, and one of the ways we can do that is by helping these young men realize their full potential through graduating from high school and continuing their education in college.”
Young men and women in Clemson’s Emerging Scholars Program also plan to attend the Summit. The event is one more opportunity for the high school students to engage with peers from other school districts and network with educators and potential employers.
One of two new additions to the 2019 summit is the Pre-Summit Institute for elementary and middle school teachers and principals. Members of Clemson’s Call Me MISTER program will host sessions April 24 at the Hyatt Regency in Greenville to help prepare South Carolina educators to address the needs and challenges faced by African-American and Latino youth. Pre-Summit registration is open for interested educators.
Clemson held its first regional summit in January. Nearly 500 students, educators and presenters attended the Lowcountry Student Summit in North Charleston. The diversity education arm of the Division of Inclusion and Equity, created a hybrid Men of Color summit to help prepare students for higher education and the workforce.
The Men of Color National Summit is presented by Clemson University and the Division of Inclusion and Equity. It also is supported by all seven colleges at Clemson as well as area businesses, organizations and community leaders.