Charlotte prepares for United Negro College Fund tour

More than 200 community leaders met for a “VIP Luncheon” Thursday in preparation for the United Negro College Fund “Empower Me Tour,” which arrives in Charlotte on March 1.

The tour, sponsored by Wells Fargo, has been described as a free road show designed to help prepare students for college and careers. The annual tour has traveled to 12 cities so far and will end March 21 in Chicago.

Joi C. Ridley, UNCF national press secretary and communications manager, said the tour can be an image booster for students approaching college or beginning a career.

“Every city is going through some sort of image problem in terms of young African-American men and women,” she said. “I think this tour really enables them to see other people who have gone through what they have gone through. But it also empowers them to feel that they can really step out there above all the stereotypes.”

The six-hour event (from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.) will include sessions such as “Tied to Greatness,” which deals with self-image issues for African-American males. A similar session for females is called “Girl Talk.” Other sessions will deal with money management and the importance of developing a strong personal brand.

Thursday’s luncheon, held on the 41st floor of One Wells Fargo Center, was meant to build publicity for the tour’s arrival in Charlotte. Ridley said guests were invited based on their ability to act as ambassadors for the tour.

“We really wanted to make sure that the people that participate in the Charlotte tour stop look like the kids that we’re reaching out to, but they’re also faces they may have seen in their own communities,” she said.

The luncheon also served as a fundraiser for the UNCF Campaign for Emergency Student Aid, which was created to offset the impact that the economic recession and credit crunch had on UNCF member schools and the students they serve.

While most tour stops are held on college campuses, the Charlotte event will convene in the Wells Fargo Atrium.

Fonzworth Bentley, a musician, author and pop culture style icon who graduated from Morehouse College, will attend the event to mingle with and encourage students, Ridley said.