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Helping Foster the Next Generation of Leaders

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People are at the core of a community's composition. Its future is dependent upon passionate, engaged leaders. There are a variety of leadership types -- CEOs, parents, entrepreneurs, pastors, government officials, block club presidents, to name a few.

However, we cannot bring new leadership to our community without a partnership-based vision towards education.

It is no secret that Detroit Public Schools are failing, but there is confidence in Roy Roberts and his team to transform the district. And thus, transform the lives of our youth.

Detroit is not alone though. Across the United States, school districts are reconstructing how they deliver academics to balance increased costs with improved educational programming.

Fostering the next generation of leaders continues beyond secondary education. Fifteen years ago we noticed a disconnect for African-American youth in maximizing the high school experience to have an opportunity to become a college student and prepare for advanced education to provide the skills, knowledge and maturity to return to communities as burgeoning leaders.

Further, we believe that providing a platform to connect colleges with high school students will encourage youth to set and achieve new education goals instead of settling for the bare minimum.

During the past 15 years we have hosted a free college fair at Second Ebenezer Church in Detroit. The public fair's intention is to provide a one-stop platform for youth to connect with college recruiters, financial resources and college prep workshops to advance their education, and for their parents to have the tools to support them.

As a church, we have a vision that our community is not only the members inside our physical walls but all of metro Detroit. Our College Fair has drawn youth from as far away as Grand Blanc (1.5 hours from Detroit).

We are intent on connecting youth with resources to support their life goals.

The Second Ebenezer College Fair is on Saturday, February 4 at 10 a.m.-2 p.m. in a convenient location at I-75 and McNichols (Six Mile) with ample room to accommodate thousands of youth and their parents/guardians. Recruiters from historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) and many colleges in Michigan and Ohio will be on-site. Due to parents' concerns about the expense associated with sending their children to out-of-state historically black colleges, for the first time we offer recruiters from Michigan and Ohio educational institutions.

High school students may register online at www.secondebenezer.org. It is a free event and no donation is required at the door. The Second Ebenezer College Fair is supported by our church congregation, sponsorships and a Greek Step Show event the night before.

Students arrive to take advantage of on-the-spot admission opportunities, scholarships and the chance to win prizes. Every year with sponsorship support, we grant thousands of dollars in scholarships during the college fair along with giving away useful items such as laptops, tablets and college tours.

On-site workshops will provide students with valuable information about ACT/SAT preparation, financial aid, campus life and student banking. Parents can also benefit by participating in workshops designed especially for them.

Our college weekend begins with the HBCU Greek step show held on Friday, February 3 at 6 p.m. in our auditorium-style sanctuary. The $5 per person fee at the door helps support the free Second Ebenezer College Fair. This show will certainly entertain -- you'll see unbelievable talent from college youth while supporting higher education aspirations. The show will have judged competitions including an interactive part for the audience.

We hope when students connect to colleges and make the transition through this college fair that they will return to Detroit, become involved and engaged in our community, be leaders in business and build a family.

We often hear about "no child left behind." In our view, youth's education is not simply the responsibility of school districts, parents, colleges and universities, and government entities. It's a responsibility for everyone in the community to encourage, share resources and mentor our youth.

As an established leader, it's an obligation and a privilege to guide and encourage the younger generation -- to foster our next leaders. I invite you to share the information about the Second Ebenezer College Fair with high school-aged youth and their parents.

More importantly, I encourage you to make an everyday commitment to support, guide and mentor youth around you as our next leaders. Our ability to share lessons learned and experiences is one of our greatest assets.

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