By Johnson, Raelyn
Black Enterprise , Vol. 33, No. 11
Teens who want to start and run businesses need leadership skills. If you're a budding entrepreneur, you won't want to miss the chance to develop your skills at The Youth to Leaders (Y2L) National Summit, which will be held in Washington, D.C., in August.
"The goal of Y2L is to identify the next generation of leaders and [to] provide an opportunity for them to meet each other at an early age," says Andrea Foggy-Paxton, executive director of the Tavis Smiley Foundation.
Y2L is the heart of the Tavis Smiley Foundation, which encourages, empowers, and educates youth on how to improve their lives and their communities. The foundation recognizes the need for African American youth to emerge as leaders.
Y2L, which was launched in 2000, has held one-day conferences in cities such as Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia. At the conferences, approximately 100 students, ages 13 to 18, and their parents discuss concerns in the African American community and present solutions to these problems.
Conferences begin with an opening session with author and commentator Tavis Smiley and an elected official. Together, they provide an overview of the political system, making it easier for participants to become involved in community activism. Each participant is then assigned to a team based on the information they fill out on their application. A portion of the application requires that participants identify an issue that is important to them, such as education, war, or the media.
At the conference, participants are placed into teams with students who have similar concerns. "It gives students the opportunity to talk to other black youth who can identify [with] certain issues. This becomes an empowering experience that helps students discover great solutions," says Foggy-Paxton. Issue teams spend a portion of the day discussing their topic, developing a plan of action to address it, and creating a presentation to educate their fellow students. The conference is broadcast on local radio and television and is Webcast on www.youthto leaders.org.
It may seem like a long day, 12 hours to be exact, but there's plenty of time for fun. The Tavis Smiley Foundation provides free breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as performances by recording artists and appearances by celebrities. Past conference speakers have included Nick Cannon of "The Nick Cannon Show," Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., poet Sonia Sanchez, NBA star Charlie Ward, and entertainer KRS-1.
If you're not totally convinced that Y2L is for you, Nicole Figueroa would like to convince you otherwise: "The day before a Y2L conference, a friend begged me to register for the event. When I got home the next evening, I knew it was the best decision I had made in high school. …