NORTH CHARLESTON — The phrase knowledge is power may not be trending on Twitter right now, but it will be all the buzz at the inaugural Clemson University Lowcountry Student Summit.Lowcountry Student Summit logo

The summit is an extension of the Clemson University Men of Color National Summit, an annual event that brings together high school and college students, business professionals, educators, government officials and community leaders from around the country to emphasize the importance of education, best practices and choices to increase high school and college graduation rates.

Students in grades eight through 12 will gather at the Academic Magnet High School in North Charleston Saturday, Jan. 26, for the day-long Lowcountry Summit.

Clemson is also bringing a little more “Heat” to the Lowcountry Student Summit – Brian Heat that is. Heat left a memorable impression on students during Clemson’s Men of Color National Summit with his high-octane message and delivery style. The motivational speaker and career educator encourages students to apply themselves in and out of the classroom.

“The world can’t stop me, so here I come,” students repeated after Heat during the 2018 Men of Color Summit.

Brian Heat speaks to students during the 2018 Men of Color National Summit

Brian Heat speaks to students during the 2018 Men of Color National Summit

Heat told the students, “I love you so much it hurts because I believe in the power of who you truly are.”

One of the primary objectives of the summit is to drive home the message that the students, their dreams and their aspirations are valued.

“We know parents, grandparents, family members and teachers tell students they’re important,” said Lee Gill, Clemson University chief inclusion officer. “We also know sometimes it takes an outsider for that message to resonate. Brian Heat does that really well.”

Clemson’s Division of Inclusion and Equity established a relationship with the Charleston County School Board in 2017 when the board asked it to conduct a diversity and inclusion study. The partnership paved the way for the Lowcountry Student Summit, which is designed to help students prepare for a college future.

Summit work sessions cover everything from finding a job after high school to exploring career opportunities.

“Clemson University is dedicated to helping ensure more students graduate prepared for success in college, careers and citizenship,” said Moryah Jackson, Clemson University Inclusion and Equity director of diversity education.

Jackson worked with a steering committee composed of Charleston business, education and community leaders to ensure the summit meets the needs of students, their parents and educators. Session topics cover:

  • The college application process,
  • Preparing for and taking college assessment tests like the SAT and ACT/WorkKeys,
  • Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid,
  • Submitting scholarship applications,
  • Registering for apprenticeship programs and
  • Taking dual enrollment courses.

“The Lowcountry Student Summit is another example of Clemson University connecting partners to show students the power of education and being ‘all in’ for student success,” Jackson said.

Summerville High School seniors Coty Lodge and Zachary Jury are “all in.” Both students received acceptance letters from colleges and universities of their choice.

“I’m accepted to Clemson and I hear back from Duke in March,” said Lodge.

“I narrowed it down to the two schools that I wanted and I was accepted by both of them,” Jury said. “And I got into my first choice, which was Clemson, which was incredibly exciting.”

Lodge and Jury are on the wrestling team at Summerville High. They literally understand what it’s like to be all tied up in knots, on the mat and in anticipation of a college acceptance letter.

“I waited a couple months and I got my acceptance letter on Christmas eve, which was a pretty good present for me,” Jury said.

“I’m planning on studying engineering in college,” Lodge said.  “I’m not really sure what type yet, but to help me figure it out a little bit, I’ve been taking all the engineering classes offered here, as well as all the AP (Advanced Placement) and college level classes as I can to help me prepare for the work and the type of classes that I’ll see in college.”

There will be give and take at the Lowcountry Student Summit. Students and workshop presenters will engage with each other to fully appreciate the weight of the event.

Principal Kevin Smith and Clemson's Julio Hernandez and host Randolf Miller discuss the Lowcountry Student Summit during a recording for Bounce Around Charleston on Bounce TV.

Principal Kevin Smith and Clemson’s Julio Hernandez with “Bounce Around Charleston” host Randolf Miller discussing the Lowcountry Student Summit during a recording at the WCSC-TV Studios.

“When you have high performing individuals in their given fields, they can de-mystify success so it doesn’t seem like it’s something that exists over yonder,” said Kevin Williams, principal of C.E. Williams Middle School for Creative and Scientific Arts, Charleston County. “It’s someone who’s real just like them who may have had different experiences or the same experiences, but have lived a different life, and they can see success is not a mystic thing. It is real and it is attainable.”

The Lowcountry Student Summit is a response to requests from people who attended the Men of Color National Summit.

“I was blown away,” said state Rep. Marvin Pendarvis, who represents House District 113. “When I got word that Clemson was planning to expand it to the Lowcountry, I knew I had to be involved.”

Pendarvis also serves on the Lowcountry summits’ steering committee. He said it is important young people see people who look like them excelling in various career fields.

“I want them to be inspired and act on that inspiration. Students in my district need to see examples. This summit will provide that,” Pendarvis said.

Lowcountry students will also experience the impact of Clemson’s Tiger Alliance program during the summit. Tiger Alliance is a college-access program designed to help create pathways to college and build a college-going culture for African-American and Hispanic ninth- to 12th-grade high school students in the state.

“Honestly, I think this summit is exciting because it gives us a chance to travel to students to engage them in their community,” said Matthew Kirk, associate director of Tiger Alliance.

“I think having the summit in Charleston lets students know they don’t have to leave their neighborhoods to become the next leaders of this country. The resources and support they need to succeed are right at their front doors.”

The Lowcountry Student Summit is free and open to students, parents and educators in Charleston and surrounding counties, including Dorchester and Berkeley. Registration will remain open until all seats are filled.

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The 2019 Clemson University Men of Color National Summit will be April 25-26 at the Greenville Convention Center. The summit brings together more than 2,000 high school and college students, business professionals, educators, government officials and community leaders from around the country to emphasize the importance of education, best practices and choices to increase high school and college graduation rates. 2019 keynote speakers include Melissa Harris-Perry, Ronald Estrada and Lamman Rucker.