Five hundred youth participated in Urgent, Inc.’s Youth Economic Development Conference featuring teen “Shark Tank” finalist Moziah “Mo” Bridges (far right) as the keynote speaker.


Staff Report

MIAMI – Just before lunch on the second day of Urgent, Inc.’s “4th Annual Youth Economic Development Conference” at Miami Dade College North Campus, a young man in a dapper bow-tie prepared to be introduced by Miami City Commission Chairman Keon Hardeomon.

“Just by being here, you have learned something that 90% of your neighborhood doesn’t know. Use that to keep pushing forward,” Hardemon said in his inspirational remarks.

Then up came 15-year-old Moziah “Mo” Bridges, CEO of Mo’s Bows, a tie design and manufacutring company based in Memphis, Tenn.

After walking confidently up to the stage, Bridges commanded the attention of the audience of his peers when he shared his story as well as what he calls “Bows of Business.”

One of the key takeaways from Bridges’ remarks was, “always remember to work in your talent.”

That quote mirrors the tone set by Urgent, Inc., a 23-year-old youth and community development organization based in Historic Overtown, Miami and Miami Dade College North Campus as they rolled out the carpet to an audience of approximately 500 Miami-Dade County students between ages 14-21 on July 11-12.

Campus President Dr. Malou Harrison welcomed the youth to the conference saying, “North Campus and Urgent, Inc. are ideal partners because our respective organizations are keenly focused on empowering the youth in our communnities toward success, greatness and solidify(ing) their place as productive citizens of society.”

Urgent’s Youth Economic Development Conference 2017 (#YEDC2017) is a premier professional development and career exploration opportunity made possible by Miami Dade College, The Children’s Trust, Southeast Overtown Park West Community Redevelopment Agency, Chairman and City of Miami Commissioner Keon Hardemon, Knight Foundation, Macy’s, Foundation for New Education Initiatives, Miami Dade Public Schools and Board Member, Dr. Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, CareerSource South Florida, Simpkins Family Foundation, Allegany Franciscan Ministries, Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, City of Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez, Overtown Children & Youth Coaltion, Publix, The Women’s Fund and MC3 Consulting.

Each day began with the “Miami 4 Social Change Youth Film Festival,” sponsored by Miami Dade County Cultural Affairs.

There was a complete hush over the room as audiences watched 5-10 minute short films created by youth from around the country. The highlight reel also included shorts and Public Service Announcements from interns in Urgent, Inc’s Rites of Passage and F.A.C.E. (Film, Arts, Coding, Entrepreneurship) programs.

The film festival track included workshops like Film & Makeup, Wardrobe & Fashion in Film, a Cell Phone Movie Challenge lead by 48 Hours Film Project and master classes from industry professionals from Florida Film House, Quiet on the Set, ConnectHer and Elijah Wells Films.

“I was quite impressed by the works produced by local young artists, in particular the short films presented during the film festival. Many of the projects demonstrated skillful cinematography and delivered plots that creatively explored key social issues including domestic violence, drug abuse, fatherhood, and immigration policy reform,” said Urgent’s FACE event correspondent intern, Tarik Desire. “Some of the most engaging and impactful works were put together by students from the Overtown area enrolled in Urgent Inc.’s F.A.C.E. summer internship program. Not only did these projects speak to the legitimacy of youth creativity and artistic vision, but they demonstrated that when given the resources and opportunity, children have the potential to exercise effective leadership, social awareness, and pride, not only for themselves, but for their local community.”

Youth led expos featured Teen Talk with Jill Tracey of Hot105 FM, a Youth Enterpreneurs Panel led by NFTE and a youth leadership session led by the Overtown Children and Youth Coalition’s Youth Commissioners.

Lowell Gelin of On Call Mechanics, who was introduced by spoken word artist Rebecca Vaughn, offered words of wisdom during the keynote speech on the first day of the conference.

New standout sessions like the Open Mic Youth Town Hall Design Challenge on employment conducted by Dr. Tisa McGhee sought to gain insights about what is working and not working for youth seeking summer jobs.

Miami Dade College North Campus offered a student-led power hour, continuing education course entitled “Music, Film and Entrepreneurship” and one professor facilitated an Intro to Biology workshop during which students dissected a squid.

The professional developoment track featured Macy’s national trainer, Diane Hilair, who offered, “B” Empowered, a professional skills session. Attendees left the session with the motto, “Don’t wish for it, Work for it!”

Some sessions spilled outside the classroom, like a robotics session facilitated by the S.E.E.K Foundation, full of enthusiastic teens who made a handmade mini-car powered by the sun. A lively competition ensued to see whose car would go the distance, or even move at all.

The finale was a Shark Tank-like Business Pitch Competition sponsored by Urban Philanthropies.

Five groups were given three minutes to pitch their start-up idea to seasoned judges from UM Business School, SCORE and Miami Dade Economic Advocacy Trust.

The first place winner was PIC Photo Booth created by youth entrepreneurs Michael Rucker, Willdavid Padilla, Nicholas Nerys, Isabella Lopez, Santiago Lopez, Skyler Cunningham, Edward Bailey, Joel Fils-Aim, Fabiola Fils-Aime and Parchye Rogers. Second and third place pitches came from Elit Apparel and MATT.

“Overall the conference was an amazing experience,” said Charlene Brown, a student at Booker T. Washington Senior High.

Urgent, Inc.’s Vice President Saliha Nelson expressed pleasured with the success of the conference.

“Every year, we have doubled the attendance of conference delegates and teen groups … This shows us that this conference is meeting a need in the community and there is value in engaging industry professionals around high growth industries in Miami-Dade to share their expertise with teens. We remain committed to be(ing) a champion of youth economic development in South Florida.”