A parent is always looking for something that’s going to inspire her child to take their ambition to the next level, explains Upstate mother Gloria Walker.
So, when the 15-year veteran of Bank of America received an email from her company leadership about Clemson’s Men of Color National Summit: Building Bridges to Success event, inviting employees and their sons to attend, she saw beyond the impressive speaker lineup and past the educational breakout sessions.
She saw opportunity.
Specifically, she saw an opportunity for her son Quentin, a 2022 college graduate who now works in the Apple Cash division of Apple in Greenville. The sixth annual summit was a unique chance for her and her son both to hear from inspirational influencers, entrepreneurs and actors, among others, and connect with Upstate businesses.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity,” Walker said from the sprawling, bustling main ballroom of the Greenville Convention Center, shortly after listening to one of the keynote speakers. “There’s not a lot of programs like this.”
Pursuing a passion
For Quentin, opportunity has looked — for the better part of his young adult life — like music: music he played for the church band at the House of Prayer where Gloria’s husband pastors. Music played in his middle school band and high school marching band. And then a music scholarship to Benedict College.
“If I don’t hear him play music once a day, I know something is wrong,” Gloria says of her son’s interest and talent.
But that didn’t make pursuing his passion for brass — trombone in particular — in college an easy decision, she explains. He struggled with what to major in. Music, or something else?
“I told him, do what you love,” Gloria recalls.
Fortuitously, her advice to her son echoed a familiar refrain shared throughout the two-day Summit by speakers at the Greenville Convention Center. Actors, influencers, athletes and entrepreneurs shared their stories of success, opportunity, ambition and perseverance to a sold-out crowd of 2,400 attendees including Quentin and Gloria. Bank of America was one of more than 60 sponsors of the conference, presented by Boeing.
“When he was younger, I dragged him to a lot of things. Did I drag you to this?” Gloria asks, looking toward Quentin sitting next to her. Smiling Quentin replied, “No, not really.”
Both mother and son explained that listening to world-class speakers, hearing them share their stories of success and struggle and discovering what they learned along the way was powerful and inspiring.
Gloria had heard about the Men of Color Summit and was intrigued by what it offered young men like Quentin. “If you’re a mother of boys, you’re always looking for something that’s going to inspire them to go to the next level,” she said. “I feel uplifted coming here.”
Quentin finished high school in Connecticut where he grew up but then moved South to join his family and pursue college and career. He ultimately seeks to be an entrepreneur. “But I want to give back through music,” he explains, “because I believe that music is the universal language. You can learn great things from music.”
The chance to tap into someone’s passion and connect them with success is part of why Bank of America is proud to sponsor the summit, says Stacy Brandon, Bank of America president, Upstate South Carolina.
“For the sixth year, the Summit is providing a forum for students, educators and community leaders from across the country to convene and address how to best position young Black and Hispanic males for long-term success as they graduate from high school and college,” Brandon said.
“Bank of America remains committed to advancing economic opportunity and racial equality in local communities,” she continued. “Our support for this effort focuses on connecting these young men with the resources, experiences and pathways to help them reach their full potential.”
Felicia Benton-Johnson, the University’s new vice president for diversity and inclusive excellence, echoed Gloria’s sentiment about opportunity.
“The word keeps coming up: opportunity,” Benton-Johnson said. “When someone says no, that N-O means, ‘new opportunities.’ Remember that and don’t forget it.”
It’s a message that resonates, Gloria says.
“I applaud Clemson for being an innovator for this type of program,” she said. “This is so special, and I hope it continues.”