February 16, 2001

African-American Role Models Unite for Education

More than 600 parents and students are on their way to building a stronger team for education after attending the second annual African-American Conference held at Hilltop Middle School in the Sweetwater district.

Moving Music: Students from the San Ysidro Middle School Music, Theater and Dance Group perform at the 2nd Annual African-American Conference held at Hilltop Middle School.

Sunny weather, motivational speakers and informative workshops were the highlights of the Feb. 2 conference designed to showcase educational opportunities and careers available to young people.

In keeping with the conference theme of building an educational team, African-American doctors, attorneys, business owners and elected officials came together to share their roads to success with parents and students.

"We wanted students to talk to those of us who made our dreams come true and how we did it," said Charlene Lemons, conference chairwoman and assistant principal at Hilltop Middle School. "I told students to nurture their dreams."

Participants began the conference with a continental breakfast and then chose from among 26 different workshops covering such topics as self-esteem and cultural identity, college preparation and leadership development. Among the most popular was North Carolina Professor Norman Mof-fett's presentation of African-American history set to hip-hop music.

Following the workshops were lunch and keynote speakers Rudy Johnson, director of operations at the San Diego Convention Center, and Greg Akili, special assistant to Los Angeles Assemblyman Herb Wesson. Both men stressed the importance of staying in school and pursuing higher education.

Before wrapping up the conference, students and parents were entertained by African step dancers.

In writing evaluations, students and parents gave the conference high marks.

One student who attended the "Dare to Be Different" workshop said she learned to celebrate her uniqueness.

"This class made me feel I am somebody and that I can be whatever I want to be," she wrote.

The conference was sponsored by the Sweetwater Union High School District and surrounding elementary districts, San Diego State University, University of California San Diego, Cal-SOAP, San Diego Urban League, SDG&E and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

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