University of Toledo Excel’s Annual Youth Conference

Ruth Carter and Toledo Excel Youth

By Tricia Hall
The Truth Reporter

The 2023 Conference for Aspiring Minority Youth was held on Saturday, January 28, in the Student Auditorium on the campus of the University of Toledo. The conference featured two keynote speakers, various presentations and youth participation.

Alexis Means, Toledo 13abc anchor, opened the conference. Youth participants Anna Ohashi, Justis Heil and Langston Baker delivered introductions throughout the conference of every speaker and presenter. Sammy Spann, the University of Toledo vice president for Student Affairs and dean of students, Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz and Jose Luis Mendez-Andino of Owens Corning all delivered greetings to the audience.

“Wonderful to be with you this morning,” shared Mayor Kapszukiewicz

Write the Future recipients and Ashley Yoakam, TPS Foundation Executive Director

The conference announced a renewed partnership with between UT Excel, Owens Corning and Toledo Public School Foundation.

“Owens Corning has been a blessing to our program and this conference. Now we can accept more students into the Excel program because of the partnership between Owens Corning and Toledo Public School Foundation. These students up here will have no bills when they attend college and we will be supporting them through their high school to college journey,” shared David Young, director of Toledo EXCEL & Special Projects.

The conference welcomed renown speaker and advocate Diana Patton, founder of the Rise Advocates Academy, who encouraged the youth during a 20-minute discussion.

Immediately following the first plenary presented by Patton, and musical performance by Thaddeus Washington, the audience heard from the acclaimed costume designer of Coming 2 America, Amistad, the Black Panther films, Spike Lee Joints and other films, Ruth Carter. This second plenary session was moderated by Rhonda Sewell, the inaugural Toledo Museum of Art director of Belonging & Community Engagement.

Diana Patton and Toledo Excel youth

“I’m going to give you some education this morning, it’s confidence time,” began Patton during the first plenary. “You need to watch the movie of your life, from the time you were born until the age of seven. The first seven years are important because it explains how you show up, and how habits are learned.” Her 20-minute speech included deep breathing exercises and interaction with the audience. She closed by giving advise on how to get unstuck. “Your power is in you. Learn how to regulate yourself and see your power.”

“I’ve interviewed the most influential fashion people in my career while working with The Blade. This moment is my highlight. I thank the vision of Dr. [Helen] Cooke, because her vision and blessing has multiplied. I thank David Young and his team because I’ve never seen such a team so dedicated to youth,” Rhonda Sewell explained during the introduction of the conversation.

“I came from Southern roots. There were eight of us. I want to say hello and thank you Toledo. Let’s start off with what advise I would give to my younger self. I would say to my younger self, I see you. Adults need to tell young people, I see you and you have what it takes. Tell them, you are your dream right now. You have purpose,” shared Ruth Carter as she opened her session.

Toledo EXCEL was established in 1988 to help underrepresented students including African, Asian, Hispanic, and Native Americans, for success in college. Through summer institutes, academic retreat weekends, campus visits and guidance through the admission process, students increase their self-esteem, cultural awareness and civic involvement.

The 2023 Conference for Aspiring Minority Youth is the 39th annual conference, an estimated 1,000 youth were in attendance.