Normally when people hear of professional or business conferences, they immediately think of an adult event.
However, the Emily K Center, Durham Youth Commission, Made in Durham and Partners for Youth and Opportunity, all youth-serving non-profit organizations in Durham, decided to switch up the old format by hosting a youth conference earlier this fall called ConnectEd.
All of these organizations help students to become leaders in the community, but also give students help with school and, some, with family life.
The ConnectEd conference allowed students to hear from entrepreneurs, like restauranteurs and financial managers, as well as professionals, like legal and medical experts, from all walks of life.
The conference also covered education, scholarships and ways to pay for school.
One of the conference’s keynote guest speakers was Cecilia Stefany Polanco, a 25-year-old Latina entrepreneur, who owns a food truck business with her mom. Not only does she own her own business, but she’s also the recipient of a Morehead Scholarship from none other than UNC-Chapel Hill.
“It’s very rare for a person of lower class to get awarded a Morehead Scholarship. It’s normally students who come from money,” said Polanco to the audience.
Polanco’s address to almost 100 Durham youth resonated with the crowd. Ximena
Hernandez, a Partners for Youth Opportunity student who attended both conference days, said she was touched by all of the speakers and panelists — but especially so by Polanco.
“It’s nice to see a young student from Hispanic descent doing so well for herself,” Hernandez said, concluding, “The entire conference was very eye-opening and inspiring.”
The ConnectEd 2019 Conference is already in the planning phases, and organizers say they hope to inspire professionalism in even more Durham youth next year.