IMPERIAL — Local high school and college students sat attentively as guest speaker Jamaal Brown spoke about the college experience and how to succeed in life.
“Remember you come from pyramid builders,” Brown told the classroom full of African American and Mexican American students gathered for the A2MEND (African American Male Education Network & Development) sponsored event at Imperial Valley College, September 13, in Imperial.
“Discover, unwrap and present your gifts to the world,” Brown said. “Know that every cell in your body eavesdrops on your mind. Stay humble. Understand that you are walking with seven generations.”
These closing key points, or “5 Gems,” of Brown’s presentation were part of IVC’s Youth Day event, an event geared towards inspiring and preparing high school students and first-year college students for college readiness and success in higher education, said IVC Dean of Student Services and Special Projects, Alexis Villa.
“Our A2MEND Club Advisor, Diana Shelton Thomas, came up with the idea to have an outreach done specifically for youth,” Villa said. “This is the first (A2MEND) Youth Day we hold on campus so we're really excited about it.”
A2MEND is “the nation’s leading organization that fosters African American male success in community colleges,” according to their website, with 23 A2MEND student charters throughout California community colleges.
“They demystify that process for students who don't see themselves as part of higher education, but what's cool is that they also don't exclude any other people from wanting to join the group,” Villa said about A2MEND.
She said though IVC’s chapter of A2MEND is still focused on “black male excellence and black excellence,” “our club advisor Diana is really inclusive.”
“(Thomas) wants to invite the whole campus community and let them know about the program,” Villa said. “The hope is that we also have more students that want to join the A2MEND Club, the mission, and the activities throughout the year.”
The inaugural Youth Day event saw Brown, CEO of Black365.com – a website which creates and distributes varied African American history-themed products including its well circulated Black365 and Latino calendars – and a bevy of student support programs present information for the students in attendance, such as EOPS (Extended Opportunity Programs and Services), Dual Enrollment, and Upward Bound.
“(Brown) gave us a lot of good tips of how to be successful, how to be a good student, in hopes to inspire students to be like, '(Higher education) is something I want to pursue,’” Villa said.
“We want to make sure that the presenters are engaging because we know sometimes the youth are not as in tune with it or have ‘Senioritis,’” she said, “so we're really happy to have such a dynamic speaker like Jamaal. We're really grateful for him.”
Villa said while EOPS is reserved for current IVC students, “Upward Bound and Dual Enrollment” are programs that high school students can take advantage of now.”
“A lot of times students and parents may be confused, thinking they have to pay for these programs ... (but) the thing is these programs are for all high school students, and they have really cool benefits,” she said.
Students said they gained a lot from the first-time event.
“I brought my son because I wanted him to start looking into it so he can start getting motivated,” said Korina Rodriguez, IVC student and mother of two, of El Centro.
“As a single mom it's hard raising two boys and being a full-time student the same time. My little one is autistic and this one has anxiety meeting new people, so that's why we're here,” she said.
“I really enjoyed it for the simple reason that it gives him motivation,” Rodriguez said, “that way he can start setting his mind to something positive.”
“For me, I liked the inspirational things, like the positive affirmations,” she said. “I'm the type of person that just goes with the flow and takes (life) as is, and maybe if I (write the affirmations for) myself I'll start believing a little bit more that I can do it by myself, that it's worth it, and coming to school is a great thing.”
“I can probably apply that to my life now and I'm probably going to start doing that,” Rodriguez said.
“It was good,” her eighth grade son, Matthew Rodriguez, said. “I learned a lot about life,” he said.