MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. (May 11, 2017) – The Mount Vernon High School cafeteria went from lunch hall to banquet hall on Tuesday night, when Dr. Kenneth R. Hamilton hosted The Superintendent’s Summit on MBK – Mount Vernon City School District’s My Brother’s Keep Initiative.
One hundred young men of color from the district’s three high schools gathered for a meal and conversation with more than a dozen adult mentors from the Mount Vernon community. Seated together, 10 to a table, the students and co-facilitators asked intriguing life questions to break the ice. “What one thing would you tell a younger you?” and “If you could have the answers to three questions, what would they be?” among others.
Dinner discussion led to important self-reflection and helped strengthen the students’ connections to the mentors on hand, one of the superintendent’s goals of the evening.
“I’m hopeful the students will leave here inspired and having made connections with other men in the community who are interested in serving as mentors,” said Dr. Hamilton. “We’re helping our young men realize that there’s a support system in place that they can access by reaching out to the people who have been invited here as co-facilitators.”
One of the co-facilitators was Michael Campbell, a 2010 Mount Vernon grad who is a registered respiratory therapist in Westchester Medical Center’s Neonatal ICU, and a founder of Team Smooth ENT, an organization dedicated to creating “unity in the community.”
“Anyone who’s ever told you that you can’t be anything, it is nights like tonight that they’re afraid of,” said Campbell. “For all of us to sit down, unite and be able to have conversations like this, is to be able to change the world.”
The evening’s guest speaker was philanthropist and music industry mogul Wyclef Jean, whose career spans more than three decades as a solo artist and founding member of hip-hop group, Fugees. Jean shared stories new and old, reflecting on how he has met with and risen above discrimination in his life to become not just a star, but a mentor and example to others.
“This is the knowledge that my father gave me: I can’t fail,” said Jean of the mentors in the room. “I’ve got to make it for my hood, so I can help more people.”
Jean explained that every decision shapes the future and that sometimes what seems like a simple choice between two options can turn out to be a defining moment in one’s life.
My Brother’s Keeper, established by former President Obama, aims to ensure that the nation’s boys and young men of color have equal opportunity to achieve academic and social success and prosperity. The mission of the Mount Vernon MBK Alliance is to make the American dream available to all boys and young men of color as a priority, and to all students of the Mount Vernon City School District overall.
Mount Vernon senior Asiatic McKinney shared his story of growth through a similar mentoring program, and how he learned self-reliance from representatives the program brought into his life.iphone8 release date
“Through events like this, we learn that life gets a little crazy and that you have to take the steering wheel with your own hands,” said McKinney. “There’s not always going to be someone there to steer you in the right direction, so sometimes you have to find your own way through the madness.”
Dr. Hamilton said that he hoped the event would “spark action towards improvement of the city’s schools and the community.”
As the night ended with Jean posing for selfies amidst a sea of delighted students, it was clear that what really made the evening memorable were the truths and ideas shared by everyone who attended, and which will add new energy to a critical conversation.
About Mount Vernon City School District
With more than 8,000 students in 16 schools, the Mount Vernon City School District is committed to providing a quality education to its children as well as developing programs that meet the diverse academic and social needs of its students.