“People come to people, not programs,” says James Harris, Chief Ambassador of Youth at Usher’s New Look. He’s talking about FedEx, a sponsor he helped connect the organization with two years ago. Harris met FedEx at the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship Conference in Los Angeles in 2014. The theme of the conference was adaptable leadership. Harris was there as a guest speaker, sharing the story of how Usher’s New Look transformed his life. He started out a teen on the wrong path in Kansas City, Kansas, and ended up becoming one of the top leaders in Usher Raymond’s youth leadership organization, New Look. FedEx was inspired by Harris’ story. They approached him after the event to learn more about how they could become a part of The New Look Effect. And the rest was history.
That year, FedEx became a national sponsor of our programs by first partnering with us around our annual Signature Event, the 15th year celebration, in which all proceeds went back towards developing the next generation of global youth leaders. In 2015, New Look became the recipient of a FedEx grant, which helped fund our college leadership program, Moguls in Training (MIT).
Through the partnership and by participating in our events, such as career fairs within our partner high schools, the FedEx team began to meet more and more students with stories similar to Harris’ and witness how effective our programs are in-person. They wanted to become more involved, so it came as no surprise when FedEx approached us to do something historic for the organization. They would sponsor the first-ever Moguls in Training retreat in Atlanta, GA; a weekend for all college participants in New Look from all across the country to come together for four days of career development and bonding. For these students, many of whom have grown up together since they entered New Look in 9th grade, it was something like a family reunion.
On Thursday, the MITs arrived from Atlanta, Milwaukee, Detroit, New York and Los Angeles! They began by having lunch with New Look President, Yvette Cook. Together, everyone shared their college experiences, good and bad. The students dicussed how the MIT program provides them with a peer-to-peer support system. The older students shared advice with the younger ones. One MIT, Tiffany Bell, a rising Senior at Howard University told the group, “I was told I couldn’t do chemistry. I was told I couldn’t do a lot of things. So, I majored in chemistry with a minor in biology. Now, I was just invited to apply to the neuropharmacology program for my Ph.D.” The group talked for what seemed like hours. There were a lot of happy tears. One student, Alexus Mitchell, a freshman at Tuskegee thanks to the Usher Raymond UNCF college scholarship, said she enjoys being a Mogul in Training because she and her peers “feed off of each other’s energy to succeed.”
After lunch, the students received awesome inspiration from Hip Hop Professional, Shanti Das, who is credited with helping launch Usher’s career in her former marketing role at LaFace Records. Das shared her personal story about overcoming obstacles like depression and encouraged students to take the unconventional pathway in their career decisions. Das explained that you will stumble into the perfect career pathway if you just follow your “SPARK”.
On Friday, Mercer University’s Stetson School of Business & Economics hosted the MIT’s exploration of the talent, career, and education pillars. The students received an “Out of the Box” Career Panel featuring Dr. Julie Petherbridge from Mercer University, Anne Sapp from Anne W. Sapp, PC, Erin Beacham from the Anti-Defamation League, Michelle Blue from Bené Scarves, and Vivica Brown from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Following the career panel, ServiceWorks Online facilitated an interactive session where MITs learned project management skills to plan their own service project.
— Usher’s New Look (@UshersNewLook) July 22, 2016
After lunch, MITs participated in an activity and discussion about stereotypes and how it affects their lives personally and professionally. Next, our moguls unleashed their creativity as they competed in teams to create the tallest structure out of uncooked spaghetti and one marshmallow.
We ended the day at Mercer by splitting up into small groups to discuss topics ranging from Personal Finance & Budgeting, Networking & Public Speaking and Entrepreneurship. Later in the evening, students met up with our partner, The Winner’s Circle, a group of young black professionals, for a mentorship dinner.
Yesterdays Moguls in Dinner training with @ushersnewlook We met with students who have over come great challenges. They supported each other so much….actors, singers, biologist, football players, singers who are all UNL graduates! We had NL graduates attending #NotreDame #USC #GSU #Tuskegee #HowardUniversity Cheers to them. #TwcAtlanta #TWCAtl #30daysofgiving
A photo posted by The Winner’s Circle Atlanta (@twcatlanta) on
Saturday was service day! The students volunteered with our partner organization, Communities in Schools, to help with their Parent Expo.
Later, they got the chance to attend Atlanta’s incredible Center for Civil and Human Rights museum, which donated free passes for our students to attend.
Following the museum, the MITs headed back to the Spark Lab for Girl Code and Guy Code sessions. New Look President, Yvette Cook, and National Program Director, Careshia Moore, led the girls Q&A, while C.O.O, Gavin McGuire, led the guys’ session in the other room. The day ended with a New Look alumni panel and game night!
A photo posted by Usher’s New Look (@ushersnewlook) on
Sunday, the last day of the retreat, was a sad but joyous occasion. Students reconvened at Georgia State to reflect and share about what the retreat meant to them. Watch the video below to feel the impact for yourself: