NYC Urban Ambassadors Want Educators to Look Past Stereotypes, Take Action to Support African American and Latino Young Men
NYC Urban Ambassadors Want Educators to Look Past Stereotypes, Take Action to Support African American and Latino Young MenAbby Hexter, Associate Director of Member Communications, The College Board
The NYC Urban Ambassador program is a groundbreaking college readiness and leadership development program that seeks to foster self-agency in young males of color and to instill the belief that “education pays.”
Six Urban Ambassadors traveled from New York to New Orleans for an interactive town-hall session at the College Board’s A Dream Deferred conference. All Access caught up with New York City high school students Devante Williamson, Lionel Kiki, Natural Baptiste, Cornelius Ray, and Wilson Torres, and University of Notre Dame freshman Travis Gayle, after the session to get their reactions, and what they hope the audience took away from the conversation.
All Access: As an Urban Ambassador, you’re exposed to the pressure that often goes along with public speaking. The five of you just presented to a large group of educators. What was going through your minds when you went on stage? Were you nervous?
Wilson: I was nervous because I know that anything we say on stage can influence how people perceive your character, and might change what they think about the program. Sitting on that stage for the first time, I felt like I was on a talk show and I was waiting for someone to ask me to reach under my seat to find a prize.
Lionel: What you say has direct impact on people whether you know it or not, so you have to be conscious of what you say up there. For me it’s a great opportunity to be able to talk about the program.
Travis: I agree—I realize that this [UA] is something that’s bigger than me. I’m doing this not just for me, but for the people who come after me, putting the word out there and this is the chance for us to voice the opinion of so many.
Natural: I was nervous at first, but after a minute I felt kind of good—the feeling you get when you’re talking and just can’t stop, like you have no barriers. It felt good to say what I wanted to say, and to hear you did a good job repping the program, yourself, and your community,
Devante: I was nervous as well, but I know that when you put your own personal twist and share stories about what you’ve been through, it’s not all about the facts and stats anymore—getting a face in front of the crowd is more powerful.
Cornelius: I didn’t walk on the stage nervous, I walked on with confidence. I remember a quote from President Obama, when he said that 90% of your presentation is preparation—preparation is what makes a good presentation. I was confident to let these educators know about the disparities that work against us and informing them what needs to be done to make changes.
All Access: What is the one thing you hope the audience walks away thinking about after your session?
Devante: I hope they have an understanding of the lack of resources for African American and Latino communities.
Natural: I hope they understand how one conversation influences a student. Adults need to be the support system for African American and Latino young men, not just at home but at school as well.
Lionel: When you give appropriate resources to African American and Latino young men, they will not only succeed but thrive in any environment. When you give them support, they will do great things.
Natural: And exposure! Being able to see how the world works can be the most influential factor in a young man’s life. I feel confident that I can grab anything I can set my mind to—having students trying new things is important.
Cornelius: As seniors, we have the perspective that we’ve been through most of it, but the race isn’t over yet. We must remain focused and always have our goals in sight. For the juniors, they are getting up on that ‘kill mode’. They want to be great and you can tell from the confidence that resonates from them.
Wilson: The thing I want educators to take away is that support is always the biggest thing. Stereotypes like ‘Latinos aren’t going to college’ are always going to be out there. no matter how many degrees we get. The point is to work past the stereotypes, and get those kids into the college they need to get into, so they can strive for more.
Travis: I expect a lot of people to go back to wherever they came from and hit the drawing board. They’ll learn about what the Urban Ambassador program is doing right, see it as an example and run with it so they can help students like us—results are going to come from actions.
All Access: It’s tough to come to New Orleans and not have a little fun—what was your favorite part about your trip?
Wilson: Eating donuts—except they’re not called donuts here, they’re beignets,
Cornelius: We took a tour of the city, and it was interesting to see the different aspects of New Orleans vs. New York. In New York we have pigeons that walk around but here they have roosters everywhere.
Lionel: We ate alligator!
Natural: Being in this hotel was great—I’m a Saints fan, and we’re directly across the street from the Super Dome, that was amazing.
Travis: Taking pictures of the Mississippi river in the fog was pretty powerful.
Devante: In New York we have 42nd street, so you see the difference of how 42nd street is filled with stores upon stores, where Bourbon Street is just as crowded, but with restaurants, bars, and other types of businesses.
Cornelius: This was my first College Board event. Of course we had to miss school, but I still felt like I was educated. I took a lot from the event, being in New Orleans, and learning about how Hurricane Katrina impacted the city. So even though we weren’t in school, I still feel like I was able to learn.