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PJC students bring home leadership lessons

Published or Revised February 16, 2015

Leadership Conference

Shown at the Southwest Black Leadership Conference are, from left, Candice Butler, Kayla Moseley, Juanita Martin, Marcus Kraut, Denisha Crow, Kadija Pannell, and actor and author Hill Harper.

Six Paris Junior College students joined hundreds of other students from across the country and the West Indies at the recent Southwestern Black Student Leadership Conference hosted by Texas A&M University. They returned with several important leadership lessons they hope to share with their fellow students.

Members of the African American Student Union who attended included President Kadija Pannell, Vice President Denisha Crow, Secretary Marcus Kraut, Activities Coordinator Candice Butler, and members Juanita Martin and Kayla Moseley. They were accompanied by club sponsors Kenneth Webb, Director of Student Life, and English instructor Marian Ellis.

“The speakers really want you to focus on networking and getting your name out there and meeting new people,” said Crow. “The more people you talk to the better. They told us ‘closed mouths don’t get fed.’ If you don’t get out there and network you won’t make anything of your life.”

Webb was impressed with Maggie Anderson, one of the keynote speakers, who conducted the Empowerment Experiment where she and her family lived exclusively off black business and talent, buying only black-made products for one year. Her efforts led to a landmark study conducted by Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Business.

“What was important about her message was what she learned about the business owners, why they started their businesses, and how those businesses failed when people didn’t support locally owned businesses,” said Webb. “Local businesses are the ones that give people jobs. That’s why neighborhoods decline, so to have strong communities, you need to buy from locally owned businesses. It’s a message for any community.”

Another featured speaker was Hill Harper, who starred on the CBS television drama “CSI: NY” from 2004 to 2013, and since March 2013 has been on the USA Network spy drama “Covert Affairs.” Also a best-selling author and philanthropist, he graduated magna cum laude from Brown University and cum laude from Harvard Law School. Traveling frequently as a motivational speaker, he was also named one of the Sexiest Men Alive this year by People Magazine.

“It was an amazing experience, being around so many people who have the same mindset and are willing to learn,” said Pannell. “The speakers were beyond amazing. They gave really good points on life, goals and ways to better yourself. Hill Harper talked to us about blueprints, and gave the basic foundation of how to start it, keep it going, and help someone else who may not know how to do it for themself.”

Webb said Harper stressed the importance of setting goals for without them, no one can get anywhere.

“It was good for me to hear him and it was good for the students,” Webb said. “When they hear it from him, then hear the same thing from me, it makes sense. That’s why it’s so important to take our students to something like this. They return and spread the message to other students through their leadership conference at PJC in April. That message is good for all students.                                                           

“You can see the change in the students once they’ve attended the leadership conference. Their expectations for their own actions on campus are raised.”

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