America is brimming with young, gifted and talented students. We should never lose sight of that. Even amid the challenges we face we should never stop believing or praying for our children to become the best they can be. Case in point.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting some dynamic college students at the Thurgood Marshall College Fund 25th Gala in Washington, DC. Five hundred of the best and brightest students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities attended the affair and participated in a leadership institute to gain knowledge on how to succeed in their careers and life. It is committed to developing great minds and delivering dreams.
Of course all of the students are pursuing different careers yet they share one fundamental aspiration; they want to make a difference in the world.
Two students I talked to shared their experiences of growing up in Detroit and New Orleans. They have personally seen how the inner city blues in these areas can make people holler from heartbreaking crime, violence and poor education.
They know how the conditions of urban life can crush your spirit, steal your dreams, and leave you adrift in a sea of poverty. So they desire to succeed and pay it forward.
Southern University student Ariel Estwick was in middle school when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. She lived through the terrible experience, watching her entire world wash away in the flood and storm. Ariel told me, “They say God gives challenges.” Well, she certainly experienced them. Her family moved four times to four different cities before landing in Omaha.
You would think that Ariel would sink into hopelessness and despair. But she explains; “Overall it was a very positive experience. It made me realize the possibilities that exist and helped me turn my life around to be more driven and focused on excelling with an education.”
Ariel continued to explain there are times when the role of faith in your life can be a challenging concept to grasp; “Faith is really difficult to have when major events impact your life at such a young age. It was really difficult for me to grasp the possibilities that were out there in the world. But gradually as I came in more contact with mentors and more really warm people in my life that encouraged me to do good things, it allowed me to have faith in people.
And that’s something that’s really allowed me to continue my journey and reach out to others.” Ariel is pursuing a career in Human Resources. Also, she plans to launch a mentoring program for girls in college.
For Chidobi Nwagu of Detroit, Michigan, faith played a major role in helping him to become the person he aspires to be. “My mom always tells me to go to bed praying and wake up praying to God. It plays a huge role in keeping me steadfast. Anytime an opportunity didn’t come my way, I should stay uplifted and hopeful that another opportunity will come.
At the same time it makes me hungry for success. As it says in the Bible; if you knock on the door, the door shall be open. So I have to knock on the door. I have to get my foot in the door. I have to speak to different executives and employers so I can get to the places where I need to get,” Nwagu said.
Nwagu is concerned about the people living in his troubled hometown of Detroit. Upon completing his education he plans to reach out to help his community; “My primary focus is high school students. African American students don’t get a chance to go to college. My focus is to graduate and go back to the community and help motivate the kids to pursue college. Once they go to college and get an education, the sky is the limit! This has been the major issue for African Americans,” adds Nwagu.
Nwagu, who majors in manufacturing engineering at Central State University says his faith is always buoyed by the encouragement he receives from his family and community, “My family especially, they tell me to keep going. -Keep fighting, because you’re one of our last hopes.
The last students that come out of Detroit – we’re the ones that have to come back and help rebuild the city and help bring it back to the place where it use to be which was a city of prosperous ideas, different innovations especially that come in the engineering atmosphere which I decided to do mainly because of that. I wanted to major in a field that would help me become a leader in engineering to help bring back the automotive industry in any possible way that I can.”
The Bible says, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.” Activate your faith and you’ll be surprised at what you will achieve.