More than 300 students took part in a black male empowerment conference at Durham College on Thursday.
The event, called The Cypher, has become an annual affair meant to help students grow confidence and build skills that can be used in the outside world.
“It’s a gateway to their future,” says Roy Cousins, an area principal. “The event shows them there are different opportunities for them, but also, it is a brotherhood, a community.”
That community brought students from grades 8 to 10 together for the purpose of not only learning new skills but networking with professionals from a range of different careers.
“A conference like this helps them realize we are listening to them and gives them those seeds they will hopefully plant and help them in their future,” says Cousins.
Attendees cycled through a range of different activities, including coding and team-building, and listened to a number of different speakers as well as a drumming performance.
It was a valuable experience for students like 13-year-old John Beckford.
“I think that I can use these skills outside and set goals and achieve them,” Beckford said.
The Cypher has been running since 2017 and is now in its third year. Grade 12 student Trevin Noble attended the 2017 conference and is now an emcee at this year’s event. He says being able to have a venue where you can learn so many important skills is an inspiring experience.
“Seeing people at the conference from different professions, like education, business, that kind of inspired me to try different avenues that aren’t necessarily traditional or conventional for myself,” Noble says.
The 18-year-old plans to go to school for business next year and has started his own after-school mentorship program as well. Co-chair of The Cypher Kokhulani Yasodoran says initiatives like Noble’s are the end goal the conference is aiming for.
“Our emcees are the product of what The Cypher can lead up to. They were motivated to create their own community agencies to reach out to students and mentor them,” Yasodoran says. “That’s why events like these are important.”