More than 2,000 young men and their chaperones from universities, high schools and organizations across the country travel every year to the Men of Color National Summit. The event has grown to become a prime example of Clemson University’s dedication, as a land-grant institution, to use its influence and resources to benefit underrepresented and underprivileged families.
The Summit’s success would not be possible without the legion of people within the Clemson community who volunteer their time and energy each year to help the event run smoothly, including several who committed from the very beginning.
When this year’s summit runs at the Greenville Convention Center on April 21-22, Deveraux Williams, information technician and training manager for University Relations, and Vivian Morris, director of engagement and retention for the Office of Human Resources, will have volunteered at all five summits.
Deveraux Williams said his desire to improve diversity at Clemson led him to volunteer for the first summit in 2017.
“I always want to make Clemson better every day and what better way to do so than by volunteering my time to an event that benefits not only me but the University as a whole,” he said, adding that he loves how the summit boosts the impact of Clemson’s outreach to African-American and Hispanic men. “For me, knowing these young men will hopefully take something positive from this experience, and knowing there are people in multiple areas here at Clemson that care about their short- and long-term future is the most rewarding thing about volunteering.”
The Summit’s purpose is to foster a more inclusive, supportive and diverse South Carolina by helping close the opportunity gap for young men of color with the promise of improved access to higher education. It has made waves through South Carolina’s academic communities and attracted nationwide attention from educational institutions and media. The Summit’s success spotlights Clemson’s ability to execute a very large, high-impact event outside the traditional boundaries of the campus.
“The most rewarding part for me is simply being a part of something of this magnitude designed to help, encourage, equip and empower young men,” said Vivian Morris. “I had to raise my son basically by myself because his dad worked out of state. So, as I watched the impact the Summit has had on young men over the years, I can’t help but think about how great it would have been for my son to have had a village this large.”
Tonyia Stewart, director of graduate recruitment and inclusion in the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences and the volunteer chair for the summit, said orchestrating an event so grand would be impossible without an army of faculty, staff and students who give their time and energy as volunteers.
“Choosing to volunteer at Men of Color is an amazing opportunity to learn and grow both personally and professionally,” said Stewart. “But most important is you get to possibly change a young person’s life by helping to make this event a success!”
Volunteers provide a wide range of services for the event. From setting up the rooms, registering participants, acting as greeters, selling merchandise, and working breakout sessions to ensure each speaker is on time, introduced and out of the room before the next presenter. In 2020, the position of volunteer lead was implemented to check everyone in and make sure all the “must fill” jobs were assigned.
“Every year gets better and better,” said Morris. “The leadership and committee listen to the feedback received and truly make improvements.”
Go to this link to volunteer for this year’s summit.
Williams said one of his favorite memories was watching NBA Hall of Famer Earvin “Magic” Johnson speak in 2020.
“There were so many people inside the ballroom wanting to listen to him speak about how important it was to chase your dreams,” Williams recalled. “I know those young men really appreciated what he had to say — and then he handed out signed Laker jerseys to random kids in the audience!”
Morris said she’s grateful to have had the opportunity to see many notable speakers at the Summit over the years, but, surprisingly, it was the sight of a group of young men in Clemson’s Call Me MiSTER program dressed “to the nines” and walking together into the event space that flashes the brightest in her memory when she thinks back.
“I’ve seen famous actors and renowned speakers in person that I don’t think I would have ever seen in person outside this venue — but the most powerful moment for me came in one of the first years,” she said. “I just happened to look up and see [provost distinguished professor and director of Call Me MiSTER] Dr. Roy Jones and his Misters walking by. I was overwhelmed at the sight of so many young African American men, young and old, dressed in suits and walking in to attend the Summit. It was a beautiful sight. Words just cannot describe how that felt to me.”
When asked about the importance of volunteers who support the Summit, Chief Diversity Officer and chair of the Summit Lee Gill said that there is absolutely no way the University could host such a significant undertaking without the commitment and service of Clemson volunteers.
“They have rolled out the orange carpet for each year, providing the best guest experience for our attendees, and we owe them a tremendous thank you!” said Gill.
Both Morris and Williams say volunteering for the Men of Color National Summit is something they’d recommend to any member of the Clemson Family.
“If you care about the cause and vision of why Men of Color exists, consider volunteering your time,” said Williams. “I’m not doing this for my benefit; I’m doing it to empower young men of color and let them know Clemson will be here waiting for them to apply when they graduate high school. Plus – Men of Color is a lot of fun! It’s a unique opportunity to interact with several folks across campus that you normally wouldn’t get a chance to.”
“For those contemplating helping, just do it!” said Morris. “You will not regret a moment of the time spent.”