- The Washington Times - Friday, July 31, 2009

Parry Elliott plans to attend college and then become a family lawyer to “work with people in the community” so he can “give back.”

His brother, Triston Elliott, who attends Seed Public Charter School, dreams of becoming a filmmaker and movie producer after completing college.

Patrice Haney, who attends Anacostia High School and has a 4.0 grade point average, plans to attend the University of Pennsylvania and then become a computer technician.

Kyle Jackson, who goes to McKinley Technology High School, wants to become a sports announcer and work on television as a commentator after finishing college.

These are just a few of the students who were given the confidence and skill sets to pursue their dreams after participating in the Raising Voices From the Village youth leadership training program, which is sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Thirty students from three D.C. high schools along with their friends and family celebrated the students’ achievements on June 28 at the All Nations Baptist Church in Northeast, where they talked about their newfound goals and passions.

Earlier this year while coordinating a black history program for the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) in my professional capacity as an events planner, I came up with the idea for the training program to better prepare black students headed to college and the workplace - and pay them in the process.

I based my objective and curriculum for the program on my experience as an entrepreneur and as a participant in my District-based family business, Critique Career Services Inc., which taught effective job search techniques and strategies in the 1980s.

People would ask for resume services, counseling sessions and interview training. It troubled me that the majority of my clients had earned degrees in fields they no longer wanted to pursue, leaving them confused about what to do or where to go.

Since then, whenever I speak at a school career day program, I talk about the need to set better goals. Earlier this year, the Kellogg Foundation awarded a grant in partnership with ASALH that gave me an opportunity to help young people choose the right career path.

Sylvia Y. Cyrus, executive director of ASALH, explained the importance of training programs for the intellectual and social development of youths.

“Our youth need programs like this one to provide training and to show the benefits of setting goals and acting in a professional manner,” said Ms. Cyrus. “This program shows the commitment that ASALH and W.K. Kellogg Foundation have to youth development. The young people who attended the graduation program were proud to speak to the audience and share the goals they learned to articulate more clearly. They better understand that the history of African-Americans shows that they can achieve success in life despite the challenges that they face today.”

This spring, the six-week Raising Voices From the Village leadership training covered programs that included setting goals and effective job searching. Students were taught to conduct effective job interviews, to dress for success and to speak clearly. Lessons about changing their mental attitudes, thinking positively, and developing self-discipline and tolerance for all people were designed to help students gain confidence in the classroom and in the work force. They participated in mock college and job interviews, and an etiquette workshop demonstrated how to eat properly in formal settings.

Students also learned about financial security and researched how to choose the degree field best suited for them, one in which they would be able to create a successful career doing work they enjoy.

The Kellogg grant covered expenses, created job opportunities and paid each student $8 an hour for participation. The foundation says it helps to “create conditions that propel vulnerable children to achieve success as individuals and as contributors to the larger community and society.”

We need to decrease the number of black students who are destined for prison and increase the number who have college aspirations and can be role models. Otherwise, we will suffer a lost generation.

c Lyndia Grant is a religion writer living in the District.

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