By Kasey Mather
City Colleges of Chicago
Recipient of the NACAC Rising Star award, the College Awareness and Preparation (CAP) Committee’s first-annual Motivate Me – The Young Men’s Conference was a huge success. The mission of Motivate Me is to inform, inspire, and empower young males throughout the Chicago-land area. Motivate Me reflects both the CAP Committee’s dedication to enabling educational access and improving the lives of the next generation, as well as NACAC’s overall dedication to serving the needs of students in their transition to college.
Attracting students from 18 different high schools, the 30 freshmen males in attendance represented a diverse group of individuals from varying socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds, all of whom came together for the day to strengthen their focus on the future. Both successful high school completion and the pursuance of higher education were stressed via the conference’s featured workshops, student panel and keynote address, all of which were elements led by strong male role models exemplifying the use of education in the achievement of both personal and professional goals.
The majority of these workshops, including Jerry Pope’s “Our Deepest Fear,” which detailed motivational narratives of young people overcoming adversity, and the secrets that helped them achieve greatness, and Corey Richardson’s “Authentic Manhood: Are You About That Life?,” a humorous, honest exploration of the cultural and societal norms that have long defined the meaning of man in America, received nearly perfect ratings of excellence from student attendees. Paul Connor’s keynote address, “Accepting the Challenge to Lead,” also received excellent reviews, and was hailed as “passionate,” “direct,” and “honest.”
As a strong measure of the success of the conference, 100% of student attendees rated the overall conference, the speakers, and the workshops as “good” or “excellent.” In fact, among the few suggestions for improvement were the students’ desires to extend the amount time given to the “wonderful speakers,” and to add even more workshops. Citing the conference as a “great way to take advantage [of opportunity] and [learn] to become a better leader,” 100% of attendees also indicated that they would encourage friends to attend in the future. One student even ensured: “My brother will come here to this program.”
Among professionals who attended the conference, feedback was equally positive. Quinton Clay, Assistant Director of Admission at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and guest speaker for the day, described Motivate Me as having “a beautiful range of empowering topics and speakers.” Jerry Pope, National College Advisor for the Niles Township High School District, a guest speaker who also accompanied a group of students to the conference, said his students were so excited by the conference that they could not stop talking about it on the way home: “One of my students said the day was ‘the best day of [his] life!’ The other students nodded their heads in agreement.” Motivate Me, and the CAP Committee itself, he assured, is “making a difference in the lives of our students.”
Similar student sentiment said that the conference equipped them with “many things to improve [their] lives” and “help[ed] them to see the diversity of college and independent lifestyle[s],” is perhaps the best measure of all as to the success of the program. Motivate Me – The Young Men’s Conference will be a continued endeavor of the CAP Committee, with the 2014 conference taking place on May 31st at Loyola University.