WestStar hosts inaugural ALStar African American Youth Leadership Conference

The University of Tennessee at Martin WestStar Leadership Program hosted 115 high school sophomores from 16 West Tennessee school districts virtually for the inaugural ALStar African American Youth Leadership Summit on March 4.

The ALStar Summit provided African American students in West Tennessee the opportunity to learn from businessmen and women, including several UT Martin alumni, who have made successful careers for themselves in a variety of fields. Students learned about careers in medicine, technology, social work, politics, nursing, law enforcement, communications among others, as well as the soft skills to help them become well-rounded professionals in whatever career they choose.

“We’re thrilled to have a regional event focus on educating the whole-child,” said Dr. Marlon King, Jackson Madison County School System superintendent. “Learning opportunities that happen outside of the classroom, like the Virtual African American Youth Leadership Summit, are oftentimes the spark needed to propel students to dream and set goals. If we want them to be different, we have to show them something different.” Several students representing the Jackson Madison County School System attended the conference.

The inaugural youth summit featured Jerry Reese, 1987 UT Martin alumnus and former general manager for the New York Giants, as the keynote speaker. While students and participants enjoyed hearing about his experiences at UT Martin and with the New York Giants, Reese also made sure to remind students how important it is to do their best in everything they do. Through examples students could relate to, such as home life and school, Reese encouraged them to be effective and intentional in everything they do to help prepare them for life after high school.

“‘Best’ is when you give 100% to whatever you’re doing; 100% of your effort in whatever you’re trying to do,” Reese said. “‘Best’ is different from good. ‘Good’ is the enemy of ‘best.’ … Why settle for ‘good’ when ‘best’ is available? ‘Best’ is always available because you always have the control of giving 100% of your effort. … This is where your character will be built. Be the best person you can be 100%.”

Other presentations were given by Kameron Echols, assistant director of the UT Martin Office of Career Planning and Development, and Dr. Annie Jones, career counselor; as well as Matthew Marshall, president and CEO of United Way of West Tennessee; Sharron Murden, Northwest district manager of CB&S Bank; Tyreece Miller, United States Marshall; and more. The event was emceed by Civil Watkins Miller, UT Martin alumna and WestStar class of 2019 graduate.

For more information about the ALStar Summit, contact Virginia Grimes, WestStar coordinator, at vgrimes@utm.edu.

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