Black Excellence in the Community
Steel Academy Black History Month lessons culminated in a Black Excellence in the Community presentation. Coordinated by Reneé Holt, Community Liaison and Guidance Counselor for The Steel Academy, as a way to honor and hear from current African Americans making a difference right here in their own neighborhoods.
The question and answer forum between students and guests gave insight into the background and inspiration of each of these community leaders. A recurring theme, as the guests answered questions from students and staff, was that their strong desire to be in service to others propelled their own successes and personal lives. David Hamilton; District 5 Summit County Councilman; used his desire to help his brother as inspiration to become an attorney. Larry Burt; Principal of an International High School, former NFL Player, and Founder of the Farm Ohio; explained how his coach taught him to give back, and to be present in his community. He encouraged students to find good service people in their own community, like those on the panel, to attach themselves to and then ask them a million questions. Reggie Ray; Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of the Educational Empowerment Group; taught students the way to find their calling to serve the community. He told them to be aware of the things that make you the most upset. Those frustrations indicate the problems you are designed to solve.
Another encouraging message the honored guests relayed to the students was a strong sense of self, and of being great and doing their best. Chief Clarence Tucker; Fire Chief for the City of Akron; told the story of how his seventh-grade teacher challenged him with a question that changed his life. His teacher always asked him, “did you do your best?” Chief Tucker continued to apply that question to everything in his life. Detective Jon Morgan of the Akron Police Department told students that “Just because you have a disability, doesn’t mean you can’t be great and achieve what you want to achieve.” He backed his encouraging comment up with a statistic that “70% of millionaires have ADHD, proving people with ADHD disabilities are very capable of completing large tasks.”
The guests took turns weighing in on how racial stereotypes and injustices affected them. Mr. Hamilton expressed his knowledge of Summit County statistics to inform the students about the state of racism and prejudice around them. He assured the students that along with their education, by coming together for talks such as these, they will have tools to be sure they are on the up-and-up making better decisions than some of their predecessors. Chief Tucker told the students “We’ve sat in your shoes. We know what it’s like to deal with prejudice…But, it’s not impossible to deal with. You can’t let it control you, because you are in control…you are with you 24/7…and you can make decisions to help better yourself.” Detective Morgan told how it personally makes him sad, because he wants to see everybody excel, and he knows that “we as people do things that put us in predicaments that we shouldn’t do.” Mr. Ray knew he had to take himself seriously and perform twice above the level of people of other races to have others take him seriously. But he did not let this make him mad, he chose to do things that would make him successful, to be bigger than racism and the moments we live in. Now he is in a place where he can make a difference for those coming up behind him.
The guests ending thoughts encouraged students with their next steps. Mr. Hamilton, voiced what all the guests had said throughout the event, “reach out to us, we’re here to support you.” Mr. Burt told students to “Be your individual self” and Mr. Ray similarly told students to “have a dream for your life.” Wrapping up the session; Troy Powell, Principal of The Steel Academy; encouraged students to “Be aware of your resources, then plug-in and connect with school staff to ease into the next steps in life.”