For many of us at United Way of Delaware, and for many of our allies and our partners alike, addressing issues that need to be fought on so many fronts can be draining over time. So much of what we do takes years, even decades, to come to fruition. Keeping up the energy and initiative can be a struggle some days.
We at UWDE take our role of community leadership very seriously and we do all we can to continually inspire ourselves and others. We recognize that consistency and perseverance are imperative to maintain focus on change.
Often, we participate in events and programs that do the opposite of draining: experiences that lift us up. We appreciate the injection of fuel every time. But we honestly weren’t ready for the massive boost that the Black Student Summit (BSS) gave us last Saturday when some 400 people including some 300 youth met in Middletown to speak, listen and learn.
As adults, we often think a large part of our responsibility to youth is to inspire them. But at this event, organized, planned and produced by the students themselves, we were the recipients of a large infusion of inspiration and joy. The event was flawless and touched all the bases of education, information, sharing and even a little cheerleading.
Keynote speaker Ashley Christopher left the room speechless with her uplifting personal account of how she wouldn’t take no for an answer when facing barriers. Ashley’s presentation, while very short, very clearly demonstrated that where a person starts is not necessarily where they finish, that advocating for yourself can turn “No’ into “Yes,” and that people can overcome roadblocks within the system in an orderly way.
Frankly, nearly a week later, I’m still buoyed by the BSS experience. The participating students and the student planning committee; the many adults who volunteered to help at the event; the education community including Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Mark Holodik, school superintendents, advisors and teachers; the many people who donated funds during Do More 24, participating students, entertainers, the leaders from Delaware Racial Justice Collaborative, and our agency partners who were vendors at the event. A special shoutout to Dr. Chad Harrison, principal of St. Georges Technical High School, for hosting us and being such an amazing partner.
Please look at the photos of the event here. You’ll see everything from concentration to conversation, dancing and fun. This Summit won’t be the end of the students’ advocacy this year. We can’t wait to see what they achieve. And, if you’d like an infusion of hope and inspiration, please join us next year.
Michelle A. Taylor, Ed.D.
President and CEO, United Way of Delaware