The future belongs to young people, but that future will be bleak if they fall prey to common pitfalls afflicting today’s teenagers, the audience of burgeoning adults were told during the Youth Motivation Explosion.

“We’re hoping that this workshop will empower them to speak up,” Carolyn Edwards said. “They need to know that their voice matters.”

Edwards is the corresponding secretary for the Brazosport Area Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and the scholarship chairwoman for the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee. Both organizations hosted Saturday’s event that brought community youth together to learn more about different issues that are on the rise, including human trafficking, bullying and vaping. When encountering such situations, their voice matters, organizers said.

“In thinking about the youth, the children and what they’re faced with today, we just felt that it was such a worthwhile project that we wanted to be a part of,” MLKCC President Dorothy Thomas said.

The sorority is essentially an extension of the committee, Thomas said, and the committee received a Dow Promise grant that went a long way toward making Youth Motivation Explosion possible.

“It’s through our Global African Affinity Network,” said Natasha Goode, a manufacturing and engineering leader with Dow who volunteered at the event.

Goode is one of the volunteers on the Dow Promise Advisory Council, which reviews grant proposals and determines which applicant will receive the funding.

“We have a philanthropic grant that we do every year where we sponsor projects in the African American community or projects that impact the African American community where Dow employees live and work,” she said. “We look at projects that could have a good impact … things that are just good for society and the community.”

Speakers shared personal stories of overcoming, including hip-hop artist Austin Lanier, who spoke to the young people about putting aside failure and learning about his purpose in life.

“What you don’t see behind the success is that there’s a lot of failure that comes with success,” Lanier said “The difference between a loser and a winner is, the winner just never gave up — and he probably lost more than the loser.

“I’m here to tell you that y’all are gonna go through failure.”

Lanier also encouraged them to “check their circle” — evaluate the kind of people they’re spending time with and whether those people will help them reach their goals. He advised them to be careful of social media, and that the enemy of joy is comparison — their purpose may not be the same as somebody else’s.

“If you spend all your days on Instagram watching the highlights of somebody else’s life, you’re gonna lose track of your own purpose,” he said.

“I’m gonna be here to encourage y’all: learn to look inside of a mirror and love who you are,” Lanier said. “At the end of the day, we are all broken people. We all have mistakes.”

Christa Mayfield, director of Prevention Education for UnBound, a human trafficking prevention organization in Houston, gave a presentation on what human and sex trafficking are and what to look for, so that the students might be aware of it and be able to avoid it — or to speak up if they see it happening to a peer.

The average age victims go missing is 15, Mayfield said.

“We know it’s happening to students,” she said.

Those who really love you will give you what you need without strings attached, she said.

“The people you can trust are the ones who will get in your face when you make a stupid decision” — not the ones who hand you that stupid decision to make, Mayfield said.

Parents were encouraged to stay for the workshop and the presentations. Through an event like this, the sorority and MLKCC hope to facilitate connection and conversation between youth, and between youth and their families, in a positive way, Edwards said.

“Maybe they’ll start talking,” Edwards said. “If we talk to our children … we can know that something’s going on.”

“(We’re hoping) that it will change their lives,” Thomas said of the youth. “That they will learn that there really is value in their voice in situations when they have to speak up, and speak out.”

Corinna Richardson is the features writer for The Facts. Contact her at 979-237-0150.

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