Black male students engage with inspiring mentors and learn how to build bright futures.
The second annual DDSB "Cypher" black male empowerment conference was held May 24 at Durham College. This DDSB initiative has been created to help black youth to unlock their potential.
This year's Cypher conference once again brought together over 350 black male students from Grades 8-10 to have an opportunity to network and learn about future academic pathways and positive transitions as they plan for the future.
Grade 7 teacher John Haley from Sherwood PS in Oshawa was delighted to once again bring some of his students to the conference.
"As part of my school's equity team, it was a no-brainer to bring our students. Last year, I found the boys felt really special and happy that they were represented," Haley expresses. "They felt they were included in something that was just them and specific to being black and being male. They enjoyed having the mentors to look up, as well as the breakout sessions and talking with different people and connecting."
Keynote speaker Ian Brown got the young men off to an energetic start as he used comedy and storytelling to address some of the challenges faced by students. He raised the issue of stigma, and mental health awareness.
Invited speaker Dwayne Matthews, a life and education strategist, facilitated a workshop specifically focused on learning in the 21st century, the insurgence of technological advancement in schools, and the drivers that precipitate the information revolution in education for teachers.
Maxwell Heights Secondary School student Marcus Wilkinson was glad to attend and was told about the event by his vice principal.
"You should be your own leader. Build a circle of friendship that will guide you to better things and not have people who give off negative energy," Wilkinson states. "The one message I got from this conference is to prepare for the future."
Topics at this year's Cypher included: Build Your Future; The Elite Black Man: Preparing for Manhood; Humanizing the Badge and Removing the Stigma; Leadership; and Bars, Music Stars and Fancy Cars.
"This conference has mentors and someone our students can look up to and connect with. My students were able to see other boys their own age engaging in positive things," says Haley. "Cypher helps students visualize what they have going forward and what they need to do to accomplish their goals in the future."