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Monday, April 22, 2024

Opinion: The success of our youth begins with us

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It takes courage and commitment to prepare the next generation to embark on lives of success. I know this to be true from my experience with the Center for Leadership Development here in Indianapolis.

I grew up attending virtual school for grades K-12. While virtual school prepared me for collegiate academics, it fell short on teaching me the logistics involved in college preparation, including how to apply or prepare in non-academic ways.

In my junior year of high school, my mom signed me up for classes at the Center for Leadership Development, or CLD. I had no idea what I was getting into, but I was eager to learn what I needed to do to get into a good college. My parents and I were equally hopeful to learn about scholarship opportunities that might be available to me.

I began with CLD’s Self-Discovery/Career Exploration course. My instructor was wonderful and is still a mentor of mine to this day. She and many others taught me the importance of punctuality, dressing for success, being prepared, having goals, communicating effectively and so much more. At the end of the class, we gave presentations on what we wanted to do as a future career. The class taught me the life skills I needed to research career paths, succeed in college and gain confidence in my future.

The Business Orientation Project (BOP) was my other favorite program. BOP allowed me to participate in a multitude of activities and speak with people in many trades throughout Indiana. It was fascinating to hear about what made them who they are today — they gave me hope and inspired me to think I could also make it through my own difficulties.

Along with my classmates (many now lifelong friends), I also learned the ins and outs of business and what it takes to build a successful one. At the end of the program, we each gave a “Shark Tank”-style presentation to IUPUI business professors. (I am proud to say I won the competition.)

The Senior Leadership Speaker Series with Cummins was another enlightening program. Different leaders at Cummins shared their personal experiences so we could see how they became the prestigious people they are today. They also taught us how we could connect to paid internships.

Thanks to CLD, I eventually was offered a full tuition scholarship to Butler University, where I am majoring in the Arts + Design program. I’m also pursuing engineering at IUPUI in a dual-degree program with Butler.

I don’t know where I would be without my connection to CLD. What many don’t know is I would not have heard about the organization if not for alumni spreading the word about its success. Now an alumna myself, I find it extremely important to stay involved and connected with CLD to share my experience with the generation coming up.

I was once unsure of how to be equipped with the intellectual prowess to make it through life. Now I have the experience and several tips and tricks to help me be successful in any career I endeavor. I would be nowhere near as prepared for business or life as I am today if it wasn’t for the help of alumni giving me guidance and advice. I also benefited from their generous monetary donations, which helped me afford college and empowers CLD to expand and serve more Black youth for future generations. They are ensuring that more students like me become who they are meant to be and access opportunities they wouldn’t get otherwise.

No matter who you are, giving back is important. The next child you nurture is a brilliant mind that has the potential to become a successful community member, business owner, lawmaker, scientist and life force.

Anaiah Banks is a CLD alumna and current freshman at Butler University majoring in engineering and arts and design. Upon completing her studies, she hopes to improve the biomedical and film industries with greater prosthetics and practical effects, respectively.

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