Speakers inspire students

Last Friday, Laurier’s Association of Black Students (ABS) hosted the fifth annual Beating the Odds Conference in Bricker Academic.

Through workshops and team building, the conference encourages local high school students of African descent to not only complete high school, but to consider post-secondary education.

Approximately 105 students from nine high schools in Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge attended the conference.

The conference initially began five years ago in response to an alarming statistic – 70 per cent of black youth in the Kitchener-Waterloo community did not graduate high school.

“The purpose of the event is to give local high school students the motivation to pursue education throughout their lives, not just to settle with the realities of their experiences,” explained current ABS president Justine Dogbe.

“We bring in black professionals from around the province and we have them facilitate workshops that are relevant to these students’ lives.”

The conference began with keynote speaker Dana E. Salter, a PhD candidate at McGill University. Salter’s speech focused on the importance of knowing one’s history and recognizing the bigger picture.

“You have to know your history to affect your present and to push your future forward,” said Salter.

The first workshop of the conference was titled “Real Life”, and featured Anthony Lambie, assistant vice-president of call centre solutions for Sunlife Financial. Lambie stressed the importance of supportive family and friends as a foundation for overcoming challenges.

“You will always have obstacles; the key is understanding what they are and getting support for those obstacles.”

Lambie further stressed the importance of pursuing a career one is passionate about. “It doesn’t matter what your major is, it matters that you have a relationship to what your major is … if you don’t love what you’re doing, you’re not going to be happy.”

Following Lambie and leading the business workshop was Radcliffe Dockery, president and CEO of HigherEye Training and Consulting.

Dockery emphasized the importance of culture, determination and staying true to one’s self. “Don’t think ‘I’m going to work at the bank for 50 years,’ think about how that bank is going to depend on you for 50 years.”

Two more workshops followed a buffet lunch at the Turret. Laurier and ABS alumni Jamessa Johnson and Michelle Lawrence hosted a workshop titled “The Next Step”, which focused on post-secondary opportunities.

The last workshop of the day addressed anti-oppression and was led by Humera Javen, a graduate student in the CAST Program at Laurier and the executive director of Laurier Students Public Interest Research Group (LSPIRG).

This year’s conference also added a team building session. The high school students were divided into four teams, each with a motivational team name. The team names were Empowerment, Unity, Inspiration and Achievement.

“Team building time was to give these students the opportunity to think about their team name and how that name has manifested itself in the conference and how they can apply that to their lives,” said Dogbe.

Dogbe explains that the conference has always generated positive feedback.

“To hear that kind of feedback is so rewarding because it makes you feel a sense of accomplishment. We want to see the students leaving happy, we want to see the students asking questions.”