Tavis Smiley brings youth together for Leadership Institute


Speakers Include Rapper Lupe Fiasco, Cornel West, Actress Camille Winbush


Los Angeles, CA (BlackNews.com) — Tavis Smiley, Lupe Fiasco, Cornel West, actress Camille Winbush and leaders of the Freedom Rides will discuss leadership, advocacy, civic engagement and community service with middle and high school students at the Tavis Smiley Foundation’s Leadership Institute this week.

Under the theme, Transforming Youth: Mind, Body & Spirit, the conference will be held July 21-25, 2011 on the campus of UCLA in Los Angeles. About 160 students, ages 13-18, representing 16 states have been selected to participate in the program held annually for the last eight years. Combined the students have completed more than 3,000 hours of community service this year.

The purpose of the Leadership Institute is to train young people for leadership and service through action-oriented workshops, plenary sessions, interactive activities and a community service project. The sessions will focus on topics the student delegates surveyed have said are important to young people: planning and paying for college, money management, youth unemployment, peer pressure, school systems, and the economy.

“The immense challenges young people face today can often derail or delay their success. But through this program we hope to give them the tools and motivation to confront those challenges head on and nurture that leader that is developing,” Smiley said.

The program includes a teen town hall meeting moderated by Smiley focusing on a variety of teen health and wellness issues, including healthy eating, exercise and stress management.

Fiasco will discuss his music, social consciousness and his life as both an artist and entrepreneur with West. Winbush, currently starring in The Secret Life of the American Teenager, will talk about how she became an award-winning actress for her role as Vanessa on The Bernie Mac Show and simultaneously operated a successful ice cream business.

The conference will feature a history lesson as well with the screening followed by a discussion of the critically-acclaimed documentary, Freedom Riders. The movie tells the story behind a courageous band of civil rights activists who in 1961 challenged segregation in the American South. The Rev. James Lawson, retired pastor of Holman United Methodist Church, and Ralph Fertig, a professor at the University of Southern California, both considered among the architects of the freedom rides movement, will speak. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the freedom rides.

The Leadership Institute will be managed by the 12 members of the foundation’s National Youth Advisory Council. They include Amber Murray, Camille Fonseca and E.J. Fortenberry of Los Angeles; Samiaya Hoyle and Lamar Howard, Long Beach, CA; Kaya Savannah, Houston, TX; McKenzie Conner, Towson, MD; George Kilpatrick, Dewitt, NY; Ronald Taylor, Hempstead, NY; Sadiyah Sabree, Philadelphia, PA; Anthony Perry, Louisville, KY and Maxine Dior Chapman, Indianapolis, IN.

Key video sessions of the Leadership Institute will be posted on the Foundation’s website at www.youthtoleaders.org beginning with the teen town hall meeting on Friday, July 22 at 7:30 pm PST. You can follow the conference on Twitter #leadlovesaveserve @YouthtoLeaders and Facebook.

About the Tavis Smiley Foundation
The Tavis Smiley Foundation is a nonprofit organization founded in 1999 by Tavis Smiley to enlighten, encourage, and empower youth by providing leadership skills that will promote and enhance the quality of life for their lives, their community and the world. Since its inception, more than 6,500 youth have participated in the foundation’s leadership workshops and conferences. To date, the foundation has awarded more than $500,000 in scholarships. For more information, visit www.youthtoleaders.org.