I had the honor this past weekend of attending the Alpha Phi Alpha Eastern Region Leadership Development Institute’s Ecumenical and Awards Program. The program is designed to equip young African American males, ages 15 to 19, with leadership skills. This year’s theme was “ Leadership: Learning, Leading and Leveraging.” The program was on the campus of Howard University, in Washington, D.C. The young men, called ambassadors, one of whom was my cousin, were from Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. They participated in enrichment workshops and tours and got to experience dorm and campus life. They were also surrounded by a group of positive men who took an interest in molding their future.
When asked to attend the ceremony, I had no idea what I was in store for. At the launch of the ceremony, the program director thanked the parents for “giving us your sons for a few days to mold the next generation of leaders.” He challenged parents to watch for the transformation that will be witnessed in their sons’ “thinking and actions as they prepare for the next steps of their educational journey.”
As a display of their training, the ambassadors, who had been divided into groups, were charged with developing a presentation on social media and racism. Each group discussed the perceptions and the actions they create. The creativity demonstrated in each of the presentations was impressive. They were well thought out, and each member clearly articulated his views.
As with most awards programs, the young men received certificates and words of wisdom. The speaker, a young member of Alpha Phi Alpha, challenged the ambassadors to surround themselves with positive people, take risks, develop skills, be self-determined — but most importantly find a good mentor.
For four days, the men of Alpha Phi Alpha gave these young ambassadors their time and energy and taught them leadership skills so they could successfully navigate life. At the conclusion of the program, the leaders said the ambassadors now have a “network they could leverage.” Programs like this and others, such as the AARP Foundation Experience Corps and President Barack Obama’s mentoring initiative , strive to make a huge difference in the lives of our young black men.
If there is a young person in your family or community in need of mentoring, find time to make a difference in his or her life.
AARP helps people turn their goals and dreams into real possibilities , strengthens communities and fights for and equips Americans 50 and older to live their best lives. Discover all the ways AARP can help you, your family and your community at AARP Black Community , and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter .
Photo: courtesy Felicia Brown
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