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Long Branch Youth Summit: Finding Your Own Way

LONG BRANCH: For the 35 young men ages 10-17, Feb. 20 offered a special opportunity to look ahead to their futures during a special event for the youth who will be the living in the communities of tomorrow. The event was 'Finding Your Own way".

The Fidelity Lodge 42, F & AM PHA of Long Branch hosted the breakfast and the chance to look ahead at the youth and their potential for success in life through planning, goal setting, and laying out steps to achieving individual success.

The formal program read: "The purpose of this event is to bring young men together with professional young adult males who have overcome monumental odds of poverty, gang violence, broken or single parent homes where the male role model cease to exist; to strive for success in business, education, and technology; to promote safety through services that reduce violence at all levels, as well as to help at risk youth develop positive alternatives."

The Lodge members, athletic coaches and teachers form Long Branch, Asbury Park and Neptune. Other community leaders, noted church, societal and public leaders were among the participants and supporters. The common objective was for the youth to identify and reach out for their individual objectives through community outreach "finding their own way."

Education was high on the list of available means to attain success. A brief list of career fields were identified: medical professionals, engineers, lawyers, business men, skilled craftsmen and other challenging careers. After high school there is further education in colleges and universities, professional crafts academies and training experts. Life pursuits include art, music and athletics. All walks of life, and individual looking ahead, identifying strengths and wishes.

Speakers included Benjamin Whipple from the NJ Department of Unemployment talking about how the department can help individuals. Christopher Soto, a Long Branch School District Bus Driver, and recognized friend spoke about his achievements gotten by not giving up. Anastasia School Principal Francisco Rodriquez shared how students can make good use of the school offerings to assist in goals setting. A brief bio of each allowed the youth to learn from the experiences of each adult who grew up much like the youth today, encouraging them take time to plan ahead, and see how others had overcome challenges.

In the event folder contained a quote from past community leader Malcolm X. "Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today." His words stand true today, and speakers and community adults stressed as they mixed among the youths.

The morning was personally worthwhile as several youth shared their appreciation for the program. It appeared each wishes to set individual paths to their hopes and dreams.

While coming from different towns, the youth were encouraged to get to know each other, to network. Meet new people was the message. Come together as communities, and leave the competitions for sports events, they were told.

One youth said he intends to "go for it. "Give it all you got," he said. You have to have a purpose in life was another message shared among the gathering.

Lodge Grand Master Shelton J. Prescott thanked all for attending, especially the education members, the me3mbers and the NAACP sponsors. Second Baptists Church was the location, where the first Youth Summit was begun three years ago.


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