Hundreds of high school kids team up against teen violence

caines | 5/30/2013, 5:30 a.m.

[gallery columns="6" orderby="title"] CNN special correspondent Soledad OBrien, who won an Emmy in 2011 for her coverage of the crisis in Haiti and is best known for her groundbreaking documentary series, Black in America, recently visited the campus of Broward College for a youth town hall forum. The IamCHANGE program was a collaborative effort of L.E.A.D. Nation and Broward College and was hosted by 99 JAMZ emcees Miss Kimmy and Shelby Rushin. OBrien spoke about her life as a bi-racial child, her career as a journalist and the importance of education. There is still only one route that I know that we can all take to get out of poverty, to make our dreams come true and to be part of the change that this world needs thats through education, she said. My goal is to inspire youth as their values and talents are shaped and to show them that they must be diligent in looking for and taking advantage of any opportunities that may come their way. Leaders by Empowerment Activist by Development [L.E.A.D.] Nation is a South Florida-based organization that targets middle and high school students and provides mentorship, and interactive workshops and seminars that promote STEM education, critical thinking and college preparation. Now in its sixth year, the group was founded by State Representative Shevrin Jones, who also serves as the board chairman. OBrien reminded her young listeners that it has often been youth who have been key agents of change. You are powerful, just like the four teens in Greensboro, North Carolina who started a sit-in movement at a lunch counter that was the spark of the modern day civil rights movement, she said. My mother was a Black Cuban and my father was a white Australian who married in 1958 when such mixed marriages were still illegal in 16 states in the U.S. They taught me and my five brothers and sisters that one has to be willing to live their life on their own terms. People spit on my mother when we were growing up but she believed that America was better than that. Ironically, I represent what America looks like today. That was a lesson for me. Never let anyone derail you because if you do, youll never do your part to change the world. You must decide how you want to change and turn this world around. You must figure out how your faces can become the faces in Americas boardrooms. My favorite story is about a young boy who came upon a beach covered by millions of starfish. He began to throw them back into the sea, one starfish at a time, only to be told by an observing man that his efforts made little difference. The boy replied that it made a difference to the starfish that was thrown back into the water. For youth today, each step you take and each decision you make, matters now and will shape your future. L.E.A.D. Nation Student President, Desiree Williams, 18, is a senior at South Broward High School. Jonathan Samuel, 17, serves as the student vice-president and is a junior at Miramar High School. They both elaborated on what they learned from the forum. Butterflys poem was thought provoking and inspirational and Soledads speech was very empowering, Williams said. They were like food for the soul because they taught me that it is okay to make mistakes. They showed me that even if you must start at the bottom, that you should learn as much as you can, especially if you hope to move up. Now I want to be a sponge in school and learn as many things as I can. I joined L.E.A.D. Nation because I wanted to become a leader and make a change in my generation, Samuel said. You can succeed and do great things as long as you push yourself. But you have to remain focused on your goals and reach as high as you can. Soledads speech showed me that you can overcome any obstacles if you put your mind to it. You have to start somewhere in order to get somewhere else. By D. Kevin McNeirkmcneir@miamitimesonline.com