Dream Summit focuses on students' path to success

Education, character building and financial responsibility were some of the themes for Monday's summit

Local radio DJ and spoken-word artist Reginald "PM" Sweet talks to middle schoolers about the importance of being educated and well-spoken at Monday's Dream Summit at the Civic Center.

Local radio DJ and spoken-word artist Reginald "PM" Sweet talks to middle schoolers about the importance of being educated and well-spoken at Monday's Dream Summit at the Civic Center.

“Intelligence plus character-that is the goal of true education.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

Summit focuses on students’ success

ALBANY, Ga. — Even as schools were closed Monday in observance of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, scores of middle-school students picked up an education on character-building and financial accountability as a part of the 2nd annual Ward III Dream Summit hosted at the Civic Center.

The Summit aims to reach sixth-, seventh- and eigth-grade students at a critical period in their life when certain decisions and life choices are being made that will impact their chances for success, said Ward III Albany City Commissioner Christopher Pike, one of several organizers of the event.

“Middle schoolers are at a challenging age,” Pike said. “They’re in a place where the decisions that they make can have some serious repercussions later on in their life ... so we’re trying to expose them to some positive people who can share some important lessons with them that we hope they’ll carry on with them.”

The lessons taught Monday straddle the line between what they are receiving in their classrooms — like financial responsibility and money management from Ayasha Banks of Money Works Financial Services — to topics that are often learned outside of the classroom — like character-building and personal responsibility from Brandon Dotson, the assistant pastor of Greater 2nd Mt. Olive Baptist Church.

The summit is a manifestation of King’s words and ideals, which taught the importance of service, education and character.

King was born Jan. 15, 1929, and rose to become the charismatic leader of the Civil Rights Movement, which he led until his assassination on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, at the hands of James Earl Ray.

King became part of the Albany Movement in 1961. He was jailed three times here between December 1961 and July 1962 before moving on to Birmingham in 1962, unsure of the success of the Albany movement.

Looking back, King would later write in his autobiography that Albany had its successes, but that a more targeted strategy likely would have yielded better results.

“The mistake I made there was to protest against segregation generally rather than against a single and distinct facet of it. Our protest was so vague that we got nothing, and the people were left very depressed and in despair. It would have been much better to have concentrated upon integrating the buses or the lunch counters. One victory of this kind would have been symbolic, would have galvanized support and boosted morale,” King wrote. “When we planned our strategy for Birmingham months later, we spent many hours assessing Albany and trying to learn from its errors. Our appraisals not only helped to make our subsequent tactics more effective, but revealed that Albany was far from an unqualified failure.”

Speaking to the students Monday, local radio deejay and spoken-word artist Reginald “PM” Sweet, shared the importance of being educated and well spoken, and cautioned the students to be vigilant and not let “text-speak” erode their communication skills.

“If you’re in a room with a prospective boss and they’re interviewing you for a job and they ask you, ‘Why do you think you’d be a good fit for my company?’ you can’t just look at them and say, ‘Cuz...’ C-U-Z,” Sweet said. “You need to be articulate, bright and responsive to stand out from the crowd. ... Don’t let texting eat away at your ability to communicate.”

Banks told her group to learn and appreciate the concept of credit, cautioning them against the temptation to spend what they don’t have.

“Having good credit is crucial,” She told her group. “It allows you to be able to buy a good house or open up your law office or get loans for college so you can get a good career and be able to pay that money back,” she said.

Dotson also spoke of the importance of keeping a good name, but in a slightly different context, using an anecdote of a basketball player who had a scrape with the law as an example.

“It’s hard to make opportunities for yourself if you get in trouble,” Dotson said. “Sometimes there are people out there who will give you a second chance, but most of the time you could end up throwing your future ... throwing everything away, because of one bad decision.”