Thursday, June 23, 2011

I am the Most Important Person in my Future

Please repeat after me: “I am the most important person in my future.” This is how Brian White (@actorbrianwhite) opened his keynote presentation at Summer Institute 2011 last week in Myrtle Beach. Many of us knew Brian White as an actor in movies like Stomp the Yard and I Can Do Bad All by Myself or from the more recent TV show Men of a Certain Age. Fewer knew him as a licensed stock broker, former National Football League AND National Lacrosse League player, and graduate of an Ivy League college. These are tremendous accomplishments that we might expect from someone who, like Brian, came from a two-parent family, had 5 sisters to encourage him, and had lots of opportunities to succeed.

Then let’s take a look at Dr. Steve Perry (@DrStevePerry) – our closing keynote at Summer Institute. Dr. Perry was born to a teen mom, grew up having very little relationship with his father, lived in poverty, and matched up with many of the risk factors that indicate a child who will grow up to be uneducated, incarcerated, and a teen parent himself. But Dr. Perry did not become another statistic. In fact, he completed his education, ran a homeless shelter, became a candidate for state representative, and authored four books – before age 26. Today, he works as a CNN Education Contributor and is the principal and co-founder of Capital Preparatory Magnet School in one of Connecticut’s lowest performing districts – working daily to change the lives of the young people he serves.

What do these men have in common? I believe they would both agree that they were given the tools they needed to withstand life's challenges – even if those lessons came in the midst of difficult times. Because while Dr. Perry didn’t have the “traditional” support system that Brian White had, he had a strong mother who made sure he had teachers, coaches, and mentors who would help him build a foundation for his life and give him the tools he needed to make it.

To help make sure all young people have those tools, Brian White has launched Black Carpenter, a young person’s guide to essential tools for life
“The chapters in Black Carpenter are divided into tools, metaphors for life’s most important values, supported by personal anecdotes. Reading a chapter is opening the tool box of my life story. Lift out a hammer and see how choice affected me, mistakes made and lessons learned. Lift out a utility knife and read how overcoming fear taught me how to dance, ballet no less, which prepared me for a lead role in Stomp the Yard. Lift out a tape measure and meet the mentors in my life who pushed me to graduate an honor roll student from public high school and attend an Ivy League college. Most importantly, lift out any tool in these ensuing chapters and learn how to become your own Black Carpenter. “ - Brian White

Brian White and Dr. Perry understand that as we seek to address teen pregnancy, young people need education from the waist up as well as from the waist down. We know young people need education on abstinence, refusal skills, negotiation skills, contraceptive methods, but what other tools are we equipping our young people with? Are we giving them a firm foundation that will help them to handle whatever life throws at them? Are we pushing them to excel in life or just to avoid having a baby? Are we reaching both their heads and their hearts? Let’s help our young people say with certainty “I am the most important person in my future.” I think they’re worth it. Don’t you?

By: Dana Becker, Technical Assistance Specialist with the SC Campaign