BEEP–Real Role Models for Our Youth
Marc H. Morial
President and CEO National Urban League
“Each one teach one.”
A few weeks ago, in Ft. Lauderdale, the National Urban League brought together more than 400 college students and business executives from across the country for our 41st annual Black Executive Exchange Program (BEEP) Leadership Conference. BEEP is a partnership between the National Urban League, the business community, government, and non-profit institutions which places African American executives in classrooms at more than 80 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) as visiting professors and role models. These visiting professors complement students’ academic learning with real-world lessons about the expectations and demands of corporate America. As the National Urban League’s longest running program, BEEP’s mission is to share learning experiences across generations, cultivate new leaders and inspire achievement. It provides a unique opportunity for professionals and corporations to give back to their communities and help African American college students achieve their goals. And it supports one of the Urban League’s most important centennial year empowerment goals–that every American has access to jobs with living wages and good benefits.
Co-hosted by the Urban League of Broward County, the theme for this year’s conference was “BEEP 2010: The Audacity to Lead.” To be audacious means to be fearless. To be bold. To be inventive. To be resourceful. Those qualities are especially needed in these tough economic times which find African American unemployment at nearly 16 percent and competition for jobs, especially for recent college graduates, at a fever pitch. Our conference offered three days of workshops, discussions and networking to help HBCU students both sharpen their job search skills and succeed once they get in the door.
A highlight of the conference for me was the chance to participate in an interactive Town Hall meeting on the jobs crisis that was moderated by nationally known news commentator, Ed Gordon. Other participants included Broward County Urban League President, Dr. Germaine Smith-Baugh; William Diggs, President of the Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce; and Rick Beasley, Executive Director of South Florida Workforce. All of the panelists agreed that this is a critical moment for African Americans in the changing global economy. Young people must use any means necessary, including traditional networking and new social media to stand out in the highly competitive job market. And they must prepare themselves for emerging opportunities, like Green Jobs, instead of focusing on declining industries. I pointed to the National Urban League’s six-point plan for Putting America Back to Work as a blue-print for job creation and emphasized that Congress is shirking its duty by failing to pass a summer jobs bill that could provide work for as many as one million teenagers.
But the most rewarding thing about the conference for me was the chance to once again expose young college students to real role models. As James Harris, a recent graduate of Voorhees College in Denmark, South Carolina said, “The major concept I will take away from the conference is that there is a collective body of young Black, like-minded individuals who have a similar goal in mind. That goal is not only to be successful, but to help other people find the right path to their own success.” I couldn’t have said it better.