ST. LOUIS – More than 1,500 students, leaders and influencers traveled from around the country to participate in the National Urban League National Conference at the St. Louis Convention Center, July 26-29, and the National Urban League Youth Leadership Summit at Washington University, July 25-30.
The National Urban League (NUL) National Conference brings together leaders and influencers from across the country, including newsmakers, political, business and community leaders for networking opportunities, panels and workshops. The theme of this year’s national conference was “Save Our Cities: Education, Jobs and Justice.”
The NUL Youth Leadership Summit immerses young people in a college setting that provides them with a unique educational and development experience while focusing on important skills for success in college, work and life. The theme of this year’s youth summit is “Show me: Turn Talk Into Action.”
“The purpose of community engagement is to make sure that everyone is aware of these opportunities and can make informed decisions regarding their future path to success,” said Master Sgt. Damian Cason, the community engagement chief at the Marine Corps Recruiting Command in Quantico, Virginia. “Organizations like the [National Urban League] are a direct line into the youth of the African American community. They have a strong footing in 36 states and the District of Columbia.”
Marines with Marine Corps Recruiting Command and Recruiting Station St. Louis assisted in various events throughout the week to engage and educate the public on Marine Corps values while presenting opportunities to those individuals who possess the aspiration and determination to enlist. They led students in “Wake Up & Work Out” to promote a healthy lifestyle and overall wellness while emphasizing the key role that being strong both mentally and physically plays in accomplishing one’s goals.
“It was nice seeing Capt. Delus lead the workouts and talking to her,” said Abbigale Whitmore, a high school junior at the Academy of Engineering and Green Technology in Hartford, Connecticut. “She’s a strong African American woman and seeing her lead the work outs and how she carries herself made me think, ‘If she can do it, I can do it too.’”
“For a lot of these students, they’ve never seen an African American female Marine or a Marine in general,” said Capt. Charlyne Delus, a Marine Corps officer from Miami, Florida. “It’s an opportunity for students to talk to Marines with maybe a similar background or story as them. It allows them to see that the military is a viable option.”
Cason said that allowing the community to see African American Marines engaged with the youth helps remove stereotypes of people with similar backgrounds not being successful.
“I think it’s important that the Marine Corps continues to do events like these, because human interaction is more valuable than commercials and billboards,” said Delus. “I think there’s power in representation when a young black girl can see another black woman that she can relate to and have her questions answered on the spot. I honestly believe that there’s no better interaction that will leave a more lasting impression on their lives.”
The NULs National Conference and Youth Leadership Summit is scheduled to be held next summer in Columbus, Ohio.