Antonio Leroy, director of The Center for the African-American Male, or CAAM, said his organization seeks to enable students to discover their authentic identities by allowing them to achieve their full potential as scholars and assume leadership roles in the community upon graduation.
ALBANY — The Center for the African-American Male hosted its fifth annual Winter Youth Summit at Albany State University's HPER Gymnasium Friday.
CAAM was born in 1989 at Albany State University and, according to Director Antonio Leroy, the organization "seeks to enable students to discover their authentic identities by allowing them to achieve their full potential as scholars and assume leadership roles in the community upon graduation."
Thursday's CAAM program addressed only sixth-grade boys from the Dougherty County School System. Despite the racial implication of the organization's name, a number of Caucasian boys were in attendance at the event. According to Leroy, CAAM is concerned with the issues of all young males, regardless of race.
The summit began with an address by Leroy to the sixth-graders, who numbered between 400 and 500. Leroy emphasized to the group that in order to achieve their dreams and succeed in life, they must act on their own behalf. He also introduced the various speakers for the program.
"In 2012, you must do something different from what you did in 2011," Leroy said. "You must do something better in 2012."
Edgar Berry, vice president of student affairs at ASU, followed Leroy. Berry warned the students that many of them were at a crossroads in their lives and at risk of losing their way.
"You're at the age now where it starts to be decided whether we keep you or if we will lose you to those things which distract you from your dream," Berry told the youths.
Dougherty County Schools Superintendent Joshua W. Murfree advised the boys to "dream big, as if you're going to live forever. I want you to dream like it's your last day on Earth. Dream so big that on one else can get inside that dream and tell you what to do or determine your success," he said.
Ward VI Albany City Commissioner Tommie Postell assured the group that education and positive thinking would be their tickets to getting ahead in life.
"You are the future of this great nation," Postell said. "The only barrier you have is yourself. If you encounter problems you can't solve, it's because you are the problem. Education is the key."
Postell also advised the boys to "evaluate your lives only on what you have accomplished and not on what others have done."
Todd Leigh, an ASU graduate who had been a participant in CAAM, spoke about his own life experiences and three negative and three positive decisions of his life. The intention of his address, Leigh said, was to explain to the group that early life decisions yield future results — either positive or negative.
Later in the program, the youths were given opportunities to attend two separate work sessions: "Habits of a Scholar" presented by Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. and "Health and Wellness" presented by Dr. Vickie Phillips.