GREENSBORO - Young adults from Chatham, Harnett, Lee and Sampson counties were among the approximately 200 from across the state who participated in the fifth annual North Carolina Youth Summit. There, the young people heard words of encouragement and had chances to develop job skills and to network.
The event was held April 15-16 in Greensboro by workforce development boards from around the state and the North Carolina Department of Commerce. Ten young adults from the four-county area attended the conference with staff members of the Triangle South Workforce Development Board.
The Triangle South WDB offers youth and dislocated workers opportunities to gain new skills through college courses and other means. It is funded by the federal government and administered by Central Carolina Community College in Lee County for Lee, Chatham, Harnett, and Sampson counties.
Keynote speaker for the summit was Kwain Bryant, the founder of the Charlotte-based training organization Empowerment Exchange and a graduate of North Carolina Central University. He told the group he was on hand to "hype" them about advancing their careers.
"I call myself the hypeman," Bryant said. "I don't think I'm a superhero, but I do believe I'm an action hero because I believe each of you is capable of taking the action required to make your life into what you want it to be."
Using a volunteer from the audience, Bryant demonstrated how a change in focus can yield dramatic results. Asking a volunteer to balance a yardstick upright in his palm, Bryant asked the young man to keep his focus on the upper end of the stick, which made balancing it easy. Next, Bryant asked the man to focus on his palm while he made the effort to balance, making it much more difficult.
"It's easy when you're looking up, because you can adjust to the way the yard stick moves," he said. "But you're looking down it becomes hard. So guess what we're able to do when we stay focused on our goals - when we're looking up? We can adjust."
Lillington residents Beyonka Moore and Erica Taylor, both 18, found out about the conference through the Harnett County JobLink Center. Both graduates of Western Harnett High School work at a daycare center in Lillington but hope one day to own their own businesses.
"I'm looking to improve my opportunities and have a chance to better myself and be a successful person," Moore said.
Euigan Underwood, a 22-year-old from Clinton, also said he hopes to one day own his own business.
"I'd like to have a clothing store one day," he said. "So I'll be looking at any courses I can take on entrepreneurship and things of that nature."
In addition to Bryant, the young people on hand heard from a variety of other speakers. Greensboro Mayor William Knight said he was pleased with the energy level in the room.
"My literature said there would be 200 people, and I bet there are 300," he said. "I feel a lot of energy here, and I think you're going to get a lot of good information today about what you can do to improve your opportunities."
Lillian Plummer, executive director of the Greensboro-High Point Workforce Development Board, said the event's theme of "refocusing" was fitting.
"As the older adults in the system, sometimes we need to be reminded that when we refocus, we shape your environment," she said.
Additionally, David Hollars, executive director of the Centralina Workforce Development Board, joked that it was in his own interest that everyone in the room go on to success.
"I look at each of you as a potential worker who can help pay the Social Security I'm going to collect when I retire," he said to a laugh. "But seriously, this event is about learning from each other and recognizing that, in order to be a success, you have to work together. So learn from the people you meet today. You don't have to emulate anyone, but you can learn something from every person you meet."
The summit also featured interactive workshops on social networking, technology and entrepreneurship, as well as a discussion panel.
"I wanted these young adults to be empowered," said Russell Ingram Triangle South Local Area Youth Services coordinator, who attended the conference with those from the four-county area. "I want them to understand that there are other options out there for them: colleges, businesses, and a number of opportunities to excel in today's society."
For more information on programs available through Triangle South Workforce Development Board, visit www.trianglesouthworkforce.com
or call (919) 775-2122.