Tuskegee University youth summit encourages young people to find opportunities



TUSKEGEE, Ala. (November 17, 2011) — The opening session of the second Youth Empowerment Summit was held today at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center at Tuskegee University.  The event, hosted by the Tuskegee University Cooperative Extension Program, is held to educate young people about being productive citizens and entrepreneurs. Aimed at middle and high school and college students, the summit features workshops on business plans, entrepreneurship, responsible social networking and leadership. This year’s theme is “Next Generation of Scientists, Technicians, Engineers, and Entrepreneurs.” The event ends Friday.

“It’s important for students to come and gain an understanding of networking and entrepreneurship,”  Tuskegee student and session speaker Phillip Terrill said of the summit.

Macon County Commission Chair Louis Maxwell and Tuskegee University President Gilbert L. Rochon welcomed students and participants during the opening plenary session.

During his remarks, Rochon pointed out the challenges ahead for today’s minority youth such as high rates of unemployment. He urged the youths to take time to not only be focused on their goals but to make preparations to achieve their goals. He said participation in enrichment programs and activities, such as the summit, can be used to build experience for employment.  He also urged the participants to look at careers in flourishing fields of study such as science, engineering and health care.

“We have to look to other opportunities to forge a future,” Rochon said.

Rochon encouraged the visiting students to consider the university a second home and to take advantage of the resources available to them at Tuskegee. He also explained an initiative that the university is launching that will benefit many of the middle school students in the audience.

He explained that a National Science Foundation Grant will allow Tuskegee and its partner institutions to help improve science education in Macon County school districts. He gave the youths an impromptu science and technology lesson and explained how their classes will be enhanced by 3D teaching modules that will make science more interesting.

“This will show how exciting it is to develop in science and technology careers,” Rochon said. “We will be interacting with your teachers and your schools.”

Keynote speaker Fred Burks, CEO of the Burks Companies and a Tuskegee alumnus, encouraged the youths to realize that they could do anything that they wanted to do and where they were from did not matter on the path to success.

“It all started right here in Tuskegee. Everyone here taking a hand in my upbringing,” Burks said.

He also urged the participants to think beyond the normal path of getting an education and finding a job. He said the youths should look at what they like doing and build on that to create opportunities. He also told the young people that they were accountable for improving the world around them.

“It is not enough to rely on other people; you have a responsibility to contribute to your community,” Burks said.

Participants listen during a session at the Youth Empowerment Summit.

Fred Burks, CEO of the Burks Companies addresses the second Youth Empowerment Summit on Thursday at Tuskegee University.

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