WEST PALM BEACH – A program sponsored by the Urban League of Palm Beach County to encourage young people to pursue higher education donated more than $20,000 in scholarships last year, president and CEO Patrick Franklin said.
The league’s Incentive to Excel and Succeed (NULITES) initiative awarded the money to graduating seniors who need financial help to attend college, Franklin said.
“The need is there. The demand is there and whatever we can do to help our kids to get to college, that’s what we are here for,” he said.
The league boasts a 100 percent high school graduation rate for students who have been involved for more than one year. NULITES “ambassadors” Brandon Boggs, 17, a senior at Suncoast Community High School, Courtlyn Patrick, 15, a sophomore at Palm Beach Lakes Community High School and Breyanna Williams, 15, also a sophomore at Palm Beach Lakes Community High School say the program has benefited them greatly.
Brandon said the NULITES program has helped him understand how helping people can change their outlook on life and he plans on attending a Florida university to study physical therapy.
Courtlyn added that after high school she plans on pursuing a career as a criminal defense attorney. And Breyanna said before she joined the NULITES, she really didn’t know what she was going to do after high school. “Craig Lawson, a lawyer, came to speak to us one day. He said that no matter what happens in life, always chase your dreams. Now I want to be a lawyer,” she said.
As part of the initiative, the league invites prominent local and national personalities to speak to the youths. Recently, it brought three television news celebrities for its annual Youth Empowerment Luncheon whose theme was “Building On The Dream.”
The event, held at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in downtown West Palm Beach, was attended by MBNBC’s NewsNation anchor Tamron Hall, who was mistress of ceremonies, and Touré, co-host of MSNBC’s The Cycle, who was the keynote speaker.
Joy-Ann Reid, who is a frequent guest on MSNBC’s talk shows and managing editor of TheGrio.com, was a special guest.
Touré told the audience of more than 600 community leaders and youth that the best schools, intelligence, good looks and other favorable factors pale in comparison to a person with grit in achieving success in life.
“The level of focus we need to have is not [just] goals in our heads but goals that are so specific that they are written down,” he said. “Sometime you have to improvise but to have a vision is so important to get where you want to go.”
Humble beginnings shouldn’t deter anybody from achieving their goals as long as they are willing to work hard and stay focused, Touré said.
“There are so many people who achieved so much who started out with so little and the common denominator for that is grit,” he said. “If you’re the type of person who gets knocked down 10 times and gets up 11 times, then you will ultimately make it.”
Hall said the youths in the NULITES program have an uncommon level of energy and confidence. She said she had a teacher who intervened on her behalf and helped her smooth out the rough edges, which helped lead her to a successful path.
“I encountered my freshman year in high school an English teacher named Ms. Rose. She had a reputation of being the thorniest rose of them all but she turned out to be the person who helped me appreciate myself and give me great confidence,” Hall said.
Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, who received the Youth Empowerment Leadership Award at the event, said in order for young people to reach their full potential, parents have really got to pay attention.
“If you don’t pay attention to your kids, somebody else is going to,” he said. “Gangs are recruiting kids between 8 and 10 years old. So they get them early. They’re going to give the kids what you’re not giving them.”
Picture above: Patrick Franklin , Courtlyn Patrick, Breyanna Williams and Brandon Boggs.