K-State’s Black Student Union hosted high school students from all around Kansas at its leadership conference in the K-State Student Union Main Ballroom on Wednesday.
The event began at 8:30 a.m. and lasted until about 3:30 p.m. Visiting students attended a keynote session and then broke off to participate in different workshop sessions, such as “The Black Network: The Black Campus Movement” workshop run by the BSU and “Why Choose College?” run by Multicultural Student Ambassadors, according to Dee Tucker, sophomore in elementary education and BSU member. Tucker helped with a workshop during the conference.
Tucker said the leadership conference was meant to be a motivator to inspire high school students to choose college as a life path in the future.
“I think it’s important that we teach people younger than us about things that we’ve experienced, so once we’re in front of them and we show them stuff like this, then it’ll motivate them to come to college,” Tucker said. “It’ll make it seem fun and like something they can actually accomplish.”
Timothy Smith, with Jobs for American Graduates at Highland Park High School in Topeka, attended the conference with a group of HPHS students. Smith said the leadership conference highlighted “black empowerment” but encouraged students of all ethnicities to appreciate their history and differences in culture.
“It was about empowering high school students of color, and really all students, to embrace their heritage and embrace other cultures so that hopefully, we can get to a more loving, tolerant world,” Smith said.
Smith said he was drawn to bring students to BSU’s conference because he wanted them to experience leadership education in a college setting and help them discover the opportunities that await them in college, not only academically, but extracurricularly.
“They have to do some of those things in order to be exposed to different types of people, different types of opportunities, and it enlarges the world in a way that we can only hope to do in a high school setting,” Smith said. “I think it was good for them.”
The leadership conference gave high school students in attendance access to beneficial information, giving them the knowledge that they, no matter their race or culture, have something to contribute to society, Smith said.
“I think our students of color are dealing with white supremacy and racism every day, and if they’re not getting filled with information that allows them to see themselves in a positive way, to realize that their history is riddled with contributions that have driven society forward, they’re going to be in trouble,” Smith said.
Daisy Gonzalez, sophomore at Highland Park High School, said the conference workshops and activities encouraged her to see a bright future for herself.
“They were talking about Black History Month and about college and your dreams, and how you can accomplish them,” Gonzalez said. “I’m more motivated to follow my dreams and get to where I want to be.”