Crystal Barnes hopes to become a doctor one day, and thanks to HAD2Soar she'll have insight into the industry before she even graduates from Pine Bluff High School in the spring. On Saturday, approximately 75 students received career training at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff's Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics building through the initiative.

“I saw this as an opportunity, and I plan to make it in the corporate world, so being here made me humble myself a little bit,” said Barnes, who came as a member of TOPPS, Inc.'s Dreams Require Educating and Motivating Students non-profit organization. “I'm excited I came, because I connected with someone who can connect me with somebody else who will be able to help me in my field.”

HAD2Soar is the brainchild of businessman Ron Watson and former NBA player Sidney Moncrief. Watson is the founder and president of the Little Rock based HAD2, while Moncrief is the founder and president of Dallas-based Moncrief Game Changer, Inc. The pair decided to combine their youth development organizations in an effort to prepare students and young adults with the skills necessary to enter college and/or the workforce.

“We're utilizing HAD2 to get our youth to make a commitment to themselves (and) that's had to graduate, had to get up, had to go to class (and) had to clean my room,” said Watson of the meaning behind HAD2Soar. “When we say HAD2Soar, we want you to go in the workforce and soar. We want you to thrive in the workforce.”

Students participated in various forums focused on college and career readiness skills. Teamwork, flexibility, work ethic, communication, integrity and attitude were topics of discussion led by Watson, Moncrief and his wife, Takisha Moncrief.

“We teach college and career-ready soft skills to college and high schools students and what we're trying to get them to understand is the value and benefit of having effective soft skills,” said Sidney Moncrief. “We did everything from rotations at stations where we rotate to each of the ten different soft skills that we teach.”

Students who didn't have a LinkedIn profile were encouraged to create one as a step towards social media branding. LinkedIn allows people to build and engage with their professional networks. Takisha Moncrief explained how social media could help or harm the job-finding process as well as impact other areas of their life.

“You want social media to work in your favor,” said Takisha Moncrief, who helped launch Moncrief Game Changer, Inc. “There are athletes who have lost scholarship opportunities due to poor images on social media. Future employers will not hire you if you have a poor branding on social media.”

Additionally, a budget sheet was provided to attendees to explore their financial habits. The importance of financial literacy was also explained as Takisha and Sidney Moncrief dived into areas such as credit scores, loans, debt and spending money.

“You can learn how to manage your money and set up great habits now, because when you enter the real world dollars have to make sense,” said Takisha Moncrief. “Just because they offer you credit cards doesn't mean you have to take them.”

The initiative kicked off its 10-city tour in Hot Springs on Jan. 27 and is expected to travel to various cities within Arkansas including Little Rock, Jonesboro, Helena, Springdale and Conway. The tour will take place over the next three and a half months and include visits from educators, businessmen, political leaders and other professionals offering advice to students.

“I can just tell you up close and one-on-one and being able to touch them and give them the information is the most powerful tools that they need,” Watson said. “Not being exposed to them is the travesty, because they go to a door that they don't have the skills to get in. We want those initial skills to sell you and be able to get you maximum dollars for your work.”