That was the call and response used to launch our 7:30 a.m. meeting, kicking off Day 1 of an intensive, morning-to-night four day professional development conference for – high school students. High School students? Professional development? That’s right – the National Black MBA Association, better known as the NBMBAA, host of the world’s largest corporate professional career fair and one of corporate America’s largest and best known professional development organizations, has made seeding the talent pipeline starting at the ninth grade level a top priority through its Leaders of Tomorrow program.
This was the 20 year anniversary of the program, and in a fashion suitable for a major milestone, the NBMBAA’s Leaders of Tomorrow has taken its program to another level. Billed as “…Not a Vacation… but a Boot Camp for Success,” the four day youth conference fulfilled its billing, even including a 6 a.m. high intensity professionally-led calisthenics session.
The student leaders came from around the country, and in total 120 African American students from 24 LOT chapters were in attendance. Their talent, youthful energy and potential were abundantly in evidence, and the LOT Conference programming team had prepared a comprehensive agenda worthy of General Electric’s renowned Crotonville Leadership Center. Inspirational and insightful presentations were provided by accomplished leaders ranging from civil rights era freedom rider Congressman John Lewis, renown R&B singer and education advocate John Legend, successful motivational speaker and published author George C. Fraser (“Success Runs in our Race”), to movie producer Will Packer ("Stomp the Yard").
The program also included a tour of Spelman, Morehouse, Clark-Atlanta, and Emory universities, workshops on resume writing, applying to college, SAT preparation, and scholarship strategies, trips to the Georgia Aquarium and Six Flags, and national student elections. Oh, and a trip to a women’s shelter to provide two hours of community service, a visit to the Martin Luther King center, and not one but two after-parties. Not to mention daily homework study hours (after all, we were traveling on a school night) and the aforementioned early morning calisthenics.
You can imagine, not only were the student leaders “Fearless” but they were also thoroughly exhausted by the fourth and final day of the conference!
The LOT program engages African American students from around the country, as well as students of African descent from Canada and the UK. Some are exceptional scholars, while others were barely making the grade, prior to entering the program, which involves once- or twice-monthly local meetings in addition to the annual National Case Competition and the annual National Conference. Conference attendees are typically the most active and involved of the program participants. Here in Minneapolis our three students represented the roughly 40 or so students who attended at least one local Twin Cities LOT meeting this past year.