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College students get real-life advice, inspiration at UFuture summit

CHARLOTTE, N.C. College students received plenty of advice both practical and inspirational Tuesday at UFuture, a summit focusing on technology, science and finance in the global marketplace.

More than 250 college students from the Carolinas filled the room at historically black Johnson C. Smith University, representing schools from Clemson University to Bennett College.

Co-presented by the Congressional Black Caucus Institute and JCSU, the event was hosted by actors Hill Harper, Alfre Woodard and Nicole Ari Parker. Speakers ranged from members of Congress to company executives and White House policy makers.

“You guys are a generation like no other, in a time of anxiety like no other,” Woodard told the audience, introducing common themes – the need for widespread civic engagement and the power of youth.

Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., told the audience to make sure they and their families weren’t among North Carolina’s 500,000 unregistered black voters.

Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., said the way to create change is by voting for politicians that meet their needs.

“Student loans and Pell Grants are authorized by the Congress,” he said. “(Politicians) must represent your views. If they don’t represent your views, they have to be defeated in the next election.”

Mentions of President Barack Obama drew cheers from the crowd amid talk of a need to show up in force for the November election.

Streamed online, the event prompted viewers and audience members to tweet or email questions to panelists.

Questions ranged from how to build a good credit score to how to increase diversity in study abroad programs.

Fred Humphries, vice president of U.S. government affairs for Microsoft, highlighted what he called an opportunity gap in different fields.

He encouraged students to pursue the majors that will get them jobs, adding that the unemployment rate in the engineering field is just 3 percent.

“I don’t know how to make STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) sexy or cool. But I’ll tell you what, it makes a great living,” he said.

Rep. Martha Fudge, D-Ohio, said students entering political fields must pay their dues by aiding other campaigns or becoming activists.

“You can’t just start at the top,” she said. “Don’t feel that something is owed to you.”

Emanuel Cleaver, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, received wild cheers after he suggested that students in the audience were broke and had nothing to lose.

“That’s why we need you,” he said. “We need broke people to come out and change America. You can change America. You are America. You are the young black men and women who have historically built this nation.”

McNeill: 704-358-5298
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