The Smith Business Academy celebrated its five-year anniversary on April 27, 2018, by hosting the inaugural Men of Distinction Summit for high school students at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.
Students from Paint Branch, Roosevelt, Gaithersburg, Blake and MacGruder High Schools participated in the event, along with students from Ron Brown College Prep and the Literacy Lab in Washington D.C. Overall, more than 150 students attended the summit.
The purpose of the event was to bring African American and Latino youth together to participate in a series of interactive sessions designed to help them excel professionally, socially and academically.
Since the academy’s founding in 2012, the program has created a community of students emboldened to challenge themselves and distinguish themselves from their peers. In doing so, they have developed a strong brand most recognizable as “Men of Distinction.”
The summit began with an opening speech by Ethan Parker, Smith Business Academy Vice President. “Although your physical appearance will remain unchanged when you leave, you will leave this event with a changed mind,” he said.
Parker was followed by Kevin Warren, Executive Vice President of Xerox, who spoke about the significance of planning for the journey. He said that within his industry, it is important to stay ahead of the evolution of technology to stay competitive with other firms. He also said it is important to adapt your brand to changes in the business world, so that you can add as much value as possible to your company.
Anthony Tucker, a 2012 Smith School alumnus, led the next session, “Embrace Brotherhood.” In this session, attendees learned the importance of surrounding themselves with strong networks.
“Coming together as a community to share what we have all learned is very important to me,” Tucker said. “I am excited to think that what was shared in those sessions will land on inspired ears. Most importantly, I think this first event sparked something that will continue all year long.”
Brandon Lucas, Smith Business Academy president, then facilitated a conversation titled “Persevering Toward the Mark” with panelists Jaelin Cook, Austin Jones, Tamerat Mulugeta, Chineme Obiefune, Malik Sulieman and Marcus Washington. The group spoke to the notion of identifying your “why” and using that passion to persevere through the challenges that minority men face in their lives.
Finally, Smith School alumni Khalil Pettus ’15, Christopher Riggs ’16 and Kevin Romero ’15 led small group discussions to offer candid previews about what it’s like to work in corporate America as a minority male, and answer any questions the students had. This session allowed attendees to start thinking of what steps they can take to begin to distinguish themselves from their peers.
“I’m very happy to have the opportunity to go back to my alma matter and share my insights and experiences with other students and aspiring professionals,” Pettus said. “I’ve had the benefit of such mentorship and guidance during my journey, so I believe it’s important for me to pay it forward.”
Nahom Tekle, Smith Business Academy president from 2012 to 2016, ended the event with a closing call to action. Tekle reminded attendees of why the Smith Business Academy was formed and encouraged students to use the lessons they learned during the summit to propel their future success.