This year marked the sixth annual Men of Color National Summit. Presented by The Boeing Company, the award-winning event was held March 28-29, 2023, at the Greenville Convention Center and hosted a sold-out crowd of 2,400 students and professionals.
Attendees came from across the nation to hear from more than 30 nationally renowned keynote and breakout session speakers and network with colleges, corporate sponsors and government leaders.
The goal of the annual event is to inspire a college-going path for high-school-age men of color. Practical information and inspirational stories alike helped students receive advice for their future while also helping professionals learn how to support the unique needs that young men of color face through their academic and professional careers.
Participants at this year’s summit represented:
- 32 states.
- 52 sponsors.
- 800 Upstate South Carolina students.
- 9,600 total participants over six years.
- 350 Tiger Alliance students who are currently involved in the program that helps underrepresented South Carolina students prepare for college.
- More than 100 Emerging Scholars students, with 45 enrolled at Clemson and 19 enrolled for fall, all of them attending on a full scholarship.
- 115 high school seniors graduating this year who are in Tiger Alliance.
“Inclusive excellence is not just at Clemson’s core, but it goes beyond the core,” said Felicia Benton-Johnson, Clemson’s new vice president for diversity and inclusive excellence. “Clemson has impacted its students to think globally. It has also impacted the community and the state of South Carolina.”
“Look around you and look at the impact you are having,” Benton-Johnson told the crowd. “That’s what I want to have, is impact.”
The 2023 keynote speaker lineup included:
Carlos Andrés Gómez – award-winning poet, speaker, actor, and equity and inclusion strategist.
Daymond John – entrepreneur, founder and CEO of FUBU, cast member of ABC’s “Shark Tank,” author.
Oscar Nuñez – actor, best known for playing Oscar Martinez on NBC’s “The Office.”
Trent Shelton – motivational speaker, podcast host, author, former NFL wide receiver.
Baratunde Thurston – producer, host of “America Outdoors with Baratunde Thurston” and “How to Citizen with Baratunde,” founder of Puck, New York Times bestselling author.
Honoring the past
Six decades ago, Clemson University began its journey of inclusion with the integration of its student body with its first African-American student, Harvey Gantt.
Now, the sixth annual Men of Color National Summit supports the University’s key priorities to help close the opportunity gap for African American and Latino high school men, create an inclusive climate, and establish a sustainable, diverse pipeline of qualified college graduates entering the workforce.
“We hope the impact of the summit is felt across the state and the nation and that it makes a difference for young men of color,” Clemson President Jim Clements told the sold-out crowd, and then speaking directly to attendees, added: “Today could change your life.”
Summit themes are centered around career and professional development; entrepreneurship; masculinity and personal identity; retention rates, graduation and student achievement; and social and community engagement. Attendees enjoyed rich networking opportunities and had the chance to meet with corporate and academic exhibitors to learn about future career paths and what educational requirements are necessary to get there.
2023 Boeing Scholar announced
As the presenting sponsor of Clemson’s Men of Color National Summit, Boeing’s financial investment establishes a STEM track for attendees and provides funding for 400 Tiger Alliance students and approximately 100 students from South Carolina’s I-95 corridor to attend the Men of Color Summit. The company also awards one full scholarship for a graduating Tiger Alliance high school student to attend Clemson.
Slevensky Jules of Carolina High School Tiger Alliance won the $50,000 scholarship in 2022. Prior to this year’s award being announced, he talked about how the impact of that day for him: “The Boeing Scholarship really changed my life,” Slevensky said. “I knew I wanted to go to Clemson, but I wasn’t sure how I was going to do it. I woke up that day thinking it was a normal field trip.
“When they called my name, it was a shock,” he recalls. “It wasn’t just a reward; it was a responsibility as well.”
This year’s award recipient is Luis Gonzalez-Gonzalez from Berea High School in Greenville County; he thanked Clemson for his college acceptance, Boeing for the financial gift and his mother for supporting his journey.