Dinner opens Youth Empowerment events

By Andy Medici

Under the soft glow of the chandelier in the William Pitt Union ballroom, people dined on… Under the soft glow of the chandelier in the William Pitt Union ballroom, people dined on lobster bisque and breaded chicken breast while conversing with one another about the state of the community in today’s society.

This Friday night dinner was the kick-off for the first annual Youth Empowerment Weekend, organized by community outreach chairperson K. Chase Patterson and sponsored by the Black Action Society.

After Patterson’s introductions, BAS President Vanessa Gerideau spoke about the state of black communities around the country and the world. She said more people should help today’s youth achieve their goals.

Sharae Bryant spoke on behalf of the Freedom Honor Society, reiterating that the honor society – the first minority honor society at Pitt – works to help out the community. She also described its commitment to improving the lives of the people it serves.

Next to speak were local high school students, who addressed topics ranging from various difficulties in the community today to their hopes for a better future.

One student could not find the words to speak after she came to the lectern. The audience clapped and cheered for her twice in encouragement, providing an example of how important community is in each person’s life.

When the student found the courage to speak, Waynica Mclean of the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid, who is also a student at Pitt, gave up some of her time to let the high schooler address the audience.

Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Allegheny County, was the keynote speaker for the evening.

Wheatley, who grew up in Detroit, spoke about his childhood experiences in that urban setting. He said that after some difficult times, he focused on achieving his goals and became one of the youngest representatives in the House.

Wheatley continued, saying that many people are more interested in exploiting the young than helping them.

“You will meet more people interested in breaking you than in making you,” he said.

The concept of self-help also arose in his speech, as he explained to the audience that to achieve goals, a person must be willing to work for them.

“You have to be willing to reach out for yourself,” Wheatley said.

Wheatley finished his speech to loud applause and a standing ovation from some of the guests.

University students reacted positively to the event, and many thought it was a success.

“We want them to go to college, we want to see them excel,” Yanique Murphy, a member of the Freedom Honor Society and a senior at Pitt, said of the younger students present.

Rachel Redding, a graduate student at Pitt, felt that sharing knowledge with the young people in the community is an important part of community outreach.

“I think it is very important for upperclassmen to share their experiences,” she said.