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Livingstone students attend DNC event

?CHARLOTTE — Energetic students from about 20 colleges and universities, mostly HBCUs, interacted with members of Congress and some well-known actors Tuesday at an event hosted by Johnson C. Smith University and sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus Institute.
Titled UFUTURE College Summit, the two-hour event featured Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C. and other congressional members who are in Charlotte for the Democratic National Convention, which runs today through Thursday.
The Summit was moderated by actresses Alfre Woodard and Nicole Ari Parker and actor Hill Harper, who attended Harvard Law School with President Barack Obama. Student questions were taken from the floor, but in keeping with technology, questions were also submitted via twitter, email and video.
Among institutions represented Tuesday were Livingstone College, Bennett College for Women, Voorhees College, Benedict College, Central Piedmont Community College, Davidson College, N.C. A&T State University, Winston-Salem State University, Queens University, Wingate University St. Augustine’s University, North Carolina Central University, Johnson & Wales University, Clemson University and UNC Charlotte.
The first question was asked remotely from a student at Morgan State University in Baltimore, who wanted to know how she can be fiscally responsible and start a business when she graduates despite having to repay student loans.
Tony Hadley, senior vice president of government affairs and public policy for Experian, one of the three major credit reporting agencies, tackled the answer by giving students three tips.
“First, and I know this is a simple statement and I’m sure you’ve heard it from your mom and dad, but … pay your bills on time every time,” Hadley said. “You may already have a gym membership, utilities, rent and telecommunications for which you’re responsible, but if you don’t pay those bills it might turn up as a late payment or in collections on your credit history.
“Second, with your student loans, take out only what you need so that when you graduate you’re not too burdened,” Hadley continued. “Try to offset expenses through work study and summer jobs. Third, you should get active in credit … but when you get your first credit card, don’t splurge.”
The summit was festive and began with a beautiful rendition of “The National Anthem” by singer/actress Maria Howell, known for singing “God’s Trying to Tell You Something’’ in “The Color Purple.”
After Howell’s performance, JCSU President Dr. Ronald L. Carter welcomed the students and everyone in attendance.
“We hope to create a platform for dialogue and debate where you can share your views about living in a global community,” Carter said. “Take advantage of your presence in the room today and ask the tough questions. When you leave here today, I challenge you to take with you an idea that you can embrace personally. Own it and carry it out in your home, at your university, in your state, your country and the world.”
Dineo Seakamela, a sophomore communications major at Johnson C. Smith, attended the summit.
“I loved it,” Seakamela said. “It was just a really good opportunity for me as a South African to get an idea of the social ills and concerns of the American youth.”
Anthony Scott, a junior biology major at Livingstone College, also attended.
“It was very informative, and we got a lot of information letting us know what’s going to happen if President Obama does not get re-elected,” said Scott of Cades, S.C. “They told us what to expect in the future with respect to technology, and they also spoke to the importance of staying abreast of current issues.”
Scott said he really enjoyed the summit but wished he could have gotten a chance to chat informally with the members of Congress and Harper, Woodard and Parker afterward.
Colleague Shari Albury, a junior mathematics education major from Nassau, Bahamas, said she, too, enjoyed the summit.
“It was very enlightening about different issues that are going on in the United States today with respect to education and also about jobs and student loans,” Albury said. “A lot of the speakers gave some good tips for students in terms of being able to pay off our loans when we graduate and other opportunities for getting jobs.”
Albury said the environment inside Brayboy Gym was uplifting, not only because she was in the presence of members of Congress and actors and actresses but also because she got a chance to interact with students from other HBCUs and majority schools.
Desiree Salandy, a senior history major at Benedict College in Columbia, S.C., said the summit was a positive experience.
“I met students from a lot of different schools, and some celebrities, and it influenced me to do better and to start becoming more serious about my career,” said Salandy of Bronx, N.Y. “I’m going to go out and spread the word for people to get registered to vote.”
The Congressional Black Caucus Institute is a non-partisan organization; however, several summit speakers made it clear they support President Obama’s re-election bid.
“There’s a political party that wants to reduce Pell grants,” said Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C. “At the same time this same political party wants to cut … discretionary spending. It really and truly affects the affordability of higher education as it pertains to each of you. Please pay attention to this because it is a serious piece of President Obama’s campaign.”
Several people were expected to give addresses Tuesday night inside Time Warner Cable Arena, including Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro. First Lady Michelle Obama gave the keynote address.
Most of the students at the summit likely didn’t have tickets to Michelle Obama’s speech. And tickets for Thursday night at Bank of America Stadium, where President Obama will accept his party’s nomination for re-election, are extremely hard to come by.
Seakamela, of JCSU, isn’t worried about what she may not be able to attend but instead is grateful she had a seat at the summit.
“I’m proud of my university for hosting this event,” Seakamela said. “When I think about time and space who’s to say that I could have been here next year versus now, in this moment, during the Democratic National Convention, during this important time in history.”

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