Conference inspires minority students to reach potential

Conference inspires minority students to reach potential

By Jessica Wettig

Leadership is about overcoming adversity, and a student conference Thursday sought to help students break down barriers to reach their potential.

Blacks Interested in Business, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s collegiate chapter and the College of Business Office of Minority Affairs sponsored the Minority Student Leadership Conference. The conference promoted positivity through networking and workshops, which were taught by renowned leaders and keynote speakers, said Jasmine Jackson, a junior from Glendale Heights studying psychology. The highlighted entertainer, Brandon “Real T@lk” Williams, contributed a rap and slam poetry to the conference’s message.

Jackson, who served as assistant director of registration, said the conference specifically targets freshmen because they are just beginning their college careers.


Leaders strived to mentor students to become society’s future leaders by emphasizing spirituality and passion for a chosen career path. Keynote speaker Hasani Pettiford said one learns through experience in the real world. For example, he said one must learn the lesson in school to pass the test, but in life one must take the test to learn the lesson.

One must do whatever successful people do, to be successful, he said. If one aspires to a specific career path, he or she should know how others in the profession have become successful. Although students may be unable to imitate their path, they can be inspired by it.

Pettiford said individuals are valuable in every way — graveyards are filled with unwritten books, unfinished tasks and unfulfilled purposes because people lived their lives not knowing who they are, he said. Individuals must want to lead; many have thrown their lives away doing whatever someone else told them to because they didn’t know what they wanted for themselves, he said.

“You are who you think you are,” he said.

Conference Executive Director Helena Berry said the conference is not about minorities feeling sorry for themselves. She said the focus is empowerment.

“Minority doesn’t mean black at the end of the day,” Berry said, “We’d definitely like to reach out to (more minorities).”

College of Business Minority Affairs Director Michael Haywood said the idea for the conference evolved from the former Minority Business Conferences, which were held by Blacks in Business.


Haywood said the students involved, including Berry and Martin, have exemplified excellent leadership just in organizing the event.

Haywood said the conference gets past the academics and focuses on the well-rounded individual.

“Go back to the old days where we used to have wagon wheels, and the wagon wheels would have spokes on them,” he said. “If you put that in modern days, we’ll go to the bicycle where again we now have spokes on them. If you keep those spokes tight, that wheel can (run) a hundred miles an hour … If those spokes are loose, when the storms of life, when things become rapid, and you have to get a fast pace, we don’t want things to start wobbling.”

Conference Co-Coordinator and Director of Programs Alexander Martin, a senior from Normal studying computer science, said leadership is imperative for today’s college students because society needs leaders to step up and help develop future leaders. Attending conferences such as Thursday’s and interacting with people who have already transitioned from college to a career sets an example for those who are in college, he said.

Martin said the conference is less about societal issues and more about getting past minority stigmas. Positivity needs to be reinforced, he said.

“Support is here,” Berry said. “That’s all it really is.”