Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., Delta Omega Omega Chapter recently presented an Emerging Young Leaders Summit at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., Delta Omega Omega Chapter recently presented an Emerging Young Leaders Summit at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

Middle-school youth received practical training and networked with others seeking an early start, thus an advantage, preparing for college and career. The theme for the half-day summit was "The Total Package: Your toolkit for a successful future."

Marquis Cooper Sr., a counselor in the Pulaski County Special School District, advocate for children, published author and youth pastor in Little Rock, served as keynote speaker.

Cooper inspired the youth with his presentation, "Prepared, Motivated and Destined." Cooper told the students there are some things of which they have no control.

"You automatically start off behind in this game called life because you can’t choose the environment you come from or the family you were born into."

But leaving the students without excuses, Cooper challenged them to take charge of things within their control. His advice included avoiding complacency and negatism, not quitting anything because it’s too hard, ridding their lives of distractions, letting go of past hurts and disappointments and staying free from drugs.

"These principles will change your life, if you apply them," Cooper said.

For some students, a way to change their lives was exactly their reason for coming. Sierra Johnson an eighth-grade student at Jack Robey Junior High School, said, "I want to grow and experience new things in life." Sierra said whatever she learns she hopes to come back one day and teach it to others.

Xavier Stewart, a seventh-grader from White Hall Junior High School, was one of a few males in the group of approximately 70 to 80 youth. Stewart said he wanted to learn more about making right decisions.

Another eighth-grader at Jack Robey, Trinity Haynes, said she wanted to learn how to get through college. " I want to grow up and be something," she said. Haynes said the summit is a good idea for youth because, "our generation is not really going in the right direction."

Workshops were designed to give youth some specific direction. Rachel Ellis from the Arkansas Office of the Attorney General, provided insight about online safety in her workshop, Cyber Etiquette 101. Ellis’ presentation included eye-opening statistics and how they reflect the need to demonstrate wise conduct in cyberspace.

Charles Colen with UAPB Department of Industrial Technology, Management and Applied Engineering facilitated "Why Should I Consider a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) Education."

Colen asked thought-provoking questions, and stimulated conversation with the youth. STEM careers "create, discover, apply new knowledge and make life better for all," Cohen said. Several UAPB students with majors in the field joined Colen to offer comments and answer questions.

The final student workshop provided an interactive activity to teach honesty, support, confidence and critical thinking. Frank D. Dorsey II, a UAPB senior and president of Black Male Achievers, facilitated "Leadership: Making the Team Work."

Alexander Watkins, UAPB freshman class president, brought lots of energy into the room as he assisted Dorsey. Watkins explained how the activity, which required the youth to give keen attention in order to duplicate the actions of others, pertained to leadership.

"Leaders have to be problem solvers," he said. "They have to retain a lot of information in a short period of time."

For parents bringing their youth to the summit, time was well-spent. They too sat in on workshops that taught how to effectively parent an emerging teen leader. Cooper, who facilitated the parent workshop sessions, taught them principles of advocating for their child’s education and modeling proper behavior.

The academic segments of the summit ended with an Emerging Young Leader Roundtable Forum. The forum, which consisted of an all youth panel, a youth moderator and questions designed by youth, addressed issues concerning the emerging leaders.

Yamicci Wilson, a math teacher at Belair Middle School, worked with the youth to prepare them for the forum. "These kids have been very analytical and put a lot of thought into this," she said.

The power-packed day concluded with lunch, entertainment by the Pine Bluff High School drum line and an Alpha Rho strut.

Emerging Young Leaders is one of the signature programs of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Delta Omega Omega Chapter. The program targets girls between grades 6-8 to encourage leadership development, civic engagement, enhanced academic preparation and character building. The EYL Summit is open to both female and male students.

Co-chairpersons for the summit were Monique Benford, Kelli Dixon, Margaret Flannigan and Erin Pilcher.