Black History Month Program links Students with African-American Community Leaders

In honor of Black History Month, local students will take time the week of Feb. 21 through 25 to discuss higher education, possible career paths and how to improve their community. Leading the discussions at the Mary Nelson Youth Center are prominent Syracuse residents like Police Chief Frank Fowler and Anthony Davis, the first African-American principal of Liverpool High School.

Will Dowdell, assistant principal of Jamesville-Dewitt High School, organized the program and hopes to continue the events throughout the year. He says the week will allow professional African-Americans to share their success stories with students who come from a similar background.

“A lot of African-American people in this community want to help the kids in this community and take part in any kind of positive change and positive programs,” Dowdell said. “They see this as a vehicle to do that.”

Dowdell originally planned to conduct only three or four small group discussions, but so much interest was shown that he decided to expand the program. He is expecting up to 150 participants throughout the week.

Education will be focus of Monday’s discussions held Feb. 21. Anthony Davis, the first African-American principal of Liverpool High School and Monty Flynn of Onondaga Community College will stress the importance of education in the job market.

“Some of [the kids] may come from households where parents don’t have a higher education,” Dowdell said. “We hope to answer questions that they might not get answered elsewhere.”

On Tuesday, Feb. 22, Lorenzo Jackson, director of sales for Travelers Insurance Company, will speak about how to get involved in the insurance business. Wednesday, Feb. 23, Police Chief Frank Fowler will speak about law enforcement.

Thursday, Feb. 24, will feature discussions about the entertainment industry and how to get involved in the political scene. These discussions will be led by George Kilpatrick, a television and radio talk show host, and Alfonso Davis, a 2010 mayoral candidate.

Friday, Feb. 25, will take a more serious tone, as Timothy Jennings leads a discussion called “Saving our Kids.” Also community activist Charles Pierce-El will speak about community organizing.

Dwayne Owens, vice president of the NAACP, is sponsoring the program, along with South Side organizations and businesses like 100 Black Men of Syracuse, Forgiven Fitness and the Askari Printing Company.

The sessions are scheduled each evening from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Mary Nelson Youth Center, located at 2849 S. Salina St., Syracuse.