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August 1, 2017
Over a hundred high school students from across seven states in the Midwest gathered on NKU’s campus for a weekend meant to shape young black men into the next generation of leaders.
The event, hosted by NKU and Cincinnati’s chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha (Rho Gamma and Delta Gamma Lambda, respectively), the first intercollegiate fraternity founded for African-American men, was held on July 28-30.
Annually, Alpha Phi Alpha chooses the host campus of its Leadership Development Institute based on the university’s potential support for Alpha Phi Alpha’s students. Out of the schools that submit applications, Alpha Phi Alpha examines contributions and funding toward programs that align with their mission.
Last year, the event was held at Southern Illinois Carbondale, according to Bruce Mitchell, the LDI’s regional chairman, and dean. He added that Brother James Johnson, regional assistant vice president, attended and served as one of the deans.
“NKU Board of Regents member Andra’ Ward, reached out to me afterward and said, ‘we are interested and would like to bring this to NKU’ because they believed in the work we are doing and wanted to see that come to NKU,” Mitchell said. “They believed that NKU was ready for the institute to come here to support these students.”
The Institute’s theme for 2017 was “Minds of Tomorrow”, which addresses the importance of mental health alongside recurring topics like financial literacy and character development. Along with the extensive leadership training that includes seminars, community service, candid conversations, and presentations the weekend also included a visit the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.
“If you’re familiar with the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, we definitely took a notice to how society and the African-American community especially tend to kind of put a Band-Aid over mental health and prevention of suicide,” Johnson said. “So we definitely wanted to address that. We wanted to talk about conflict resolution. Being a teenager can be a difficult time. A lot of times, we say ‘get your grades up’, but we don’t talk about dealing with issues of bullying, especially when Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram are right at our fingertips now.”
According to a press release, the institute was led by members of the fraternity from a plethora of backgrounds. Because of this, Mitchell said that students are able to see men who look like them excelling in whatever their background is–be it in academia or professional spaces.
The LDI’s facilitators, who guide discussions and serve as leaders, are considered to be Alpha Phi Alpha’s most distinguished men, according to Mitchell.
“We are able to easily reach out into the brotherhood and know that we have an array of professions that range from the educational field to the medical field,” Mitchell said.
Willis Lonzer, Alpha Phi Alpha’s regional vice president, added that most physicians or scientists – if they belong to a collegiate fraternity and are African-American – likely come from Alpha Phi Alpha.
“I think that in terms of a professional network within Alpha Phi Alpha,” Lonzer said, “we’re lucky to have such a robust membership – that we can call on them as facilitators.”
Lonzer added that he hopes students attending this year’s LDI conference are encouraged to develop mental toughness so that they can have the “sticktoitiveness” to complete goals.
“To come in and be a part of the change you want to see. That’s what we’re trying to encourage them to do,” Lonzer said. “To make a difference, not only in their lives, but in the life of the person next to you. That could be the next university president, attorney, scientist, who knows? That’s what’s exciting about it.”