On September 9th, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro stopped in Birmingham for a roundtable discussion about mentoring as part of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative. Students from all over Birmingham participated in the discussion at Phillips Academy, including two students from the Academies of Birmingham at Carver High School.
This month’s Student Voice feature is a look into the experience from their perspective.
Jharin Dunson, Junior, Academy of Engineering
Although the overall experience was a bit intimidating, I enjoyed having the opportunity to be on a panel with the United States Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. It was an unreal experience speaking with two members of the Presidential Cabinet. Out of the many brilliant, young minds at my school, I was chosen. I felt exhilarated, and proud of myself.
After first being told that I would participate on the panel, I knew that I would have to prepare for this prestigious honor. That evening, I pictured myself as the world’s greatest orator; I practiced my responses repeatedly until I believed it was the proper thing to say. Once I arrived at Phillips Academy, I entered the building and made my way to the Media Center, from which the event would take place. Afterwards, a mic was attached to my lapel. I was asked to sit in a circle, until the Secretaries arrived. I was extremely nervous to, not only, speak to the United States Secretary of Education, and the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, but to speak on a National News Channel. Once we began the session, I spoke my opinion proudly and in a professional manner. I attempted to represent my school and family well; I believe I succeeded.
Walter Carr, Junior, Academy of Health Sciences
Having the opportunity to be apart of the panel with the United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was a wonderful experience – one in which my voice was heard by an adult other than my parents, teachers, and my academy instructor. This was my time to shine and I wasn’t going to let it pass me by.
When I first heard that I was picked to be on the panel, I was nervous – but at the same time I was proud of myself, knowing that I was going to represent myself and my academy. Mr.Carpenter from the Education Foundation met with me before the panel and helped me put into words what was at stake, what I know, and wanted to say (thank you to Mr. Carpenter for all his help). Because I was prepared, I got to share my thoughts and ideas with someone who has been personally and professionally successful, and who makes decisions about education in this county. The best part of the panel, for me, was the beginning, when I stood up and introduced myself, who I was representing, and my academy and to speak to the people behind the My Brother’s Keeper project about what they should do to help young black males and young men from other backgrounds, too.
After it all, I love that I got the chance to meet other foundations in Birmingham that believe in the same exact goals that we believe in. I enjoyed the experience and would love to do it again, even if it was with the same people as before, because they all had wonderful ideas and we had a great connection and a lot of potential as a group.