More than 125 students attended the concluding session in the “So Can You” Speaker Series on May 30, listening to powerful messages from U.S. Congressman Jamaal Bowman and NY State Education Department Chancellor Dr. Lester Young.
Speaking in the Linda Kelly Theatre, the two guests told their stories of how they faced discrimination and challenges to make history as they rose to their present positions.
Dr. Young spoke of experiencing racism as he rose to become the top decision maker in New York State education, how it made him a stronger person and prepared him for life’s challenges. He singled out perseverance as a guiding principle.
“Perseverance will allow you to never give up. You must know how to push through adversity, challenges, and hurdles throughout the course of your life,” the Board of Regents Chancellor said.
Speaking with passion, Congressman Bowman, who represents New York’s 16th congressional district, also spoke of rising through adversity.
“If I can come from the cocaine epidemic, drug addiction in my family and a single-family home, ‘So Can You’,” he said, evoking the speaker series theme.
The Congressman has made history twice, he said. Once by starting his own school in Yonkers and then by defeating 30-year incumbent Congressman Engel in a landslide victory.
He urged students to exercise their power by voting and to not “leave the decisions of their future to other people.”
Both speakers emphasized that the students are SOMEBODY and that the work starts from within.
Their messages resonated with the students: Freshman Anthony Athanase said, “To see two powerful men working for my community this way inspires me to keep pushing hard and I look forward to following both of their careers. Very inspiring message.”
For senior Juan Barajas the event was personal. “I am super grateful for the contribution of Chancellor Young. If he didn’t advocate for New York to take the MBK pledge, I wouldn’t have been granted the opportunity to be a MBK New Ro Fellow. I thank him for his perseverance and commitment.” MBK is My Brother’s Keeper, a mentoring program for boys and young men.
The “So Can You” speaker series delivers powerful guest speakers from a variety of business sectors, both public and private, delivering a message of determination and hope for young students.