Hundreds Attend UNCF’s Empower Me Tour at Claflin University

Oct 04, 2014

Hundreds of high school and college-age students were on the Claflin University campus Saturday to be empowered with knowledge and skills to be successful in college and beyond during the UNCF Empower Me Tour Presented by Wells Fargo.

The Tour – a free, traveling college-and career-readiness road show sponsored by the country’s largest and most effective minority education organization – is designed for underserved students in grades 9 through 12 and their parents, as well as educators, college students and administrators, college graduates and the community at large, to participate in a full day of exhibits, college and career workshops, and engaging panel discussions with special guests and celebrities.

The purpose of the Empower Me Tour is “to empower young people to become financially literate, to become people who look at themselves inside, see the beauty inside, and know what you can achieve and accomplish, and encourage you to be the leaders that you need to be,” UNCF Vice President for Development Paulette Jackson said in thanking Presenting Sponsor Wells Fargo and Supporting Sponsors FedEx and Procter & Gamble. “But most importantly, it is to make sure that you stay focused on your education, focused on your goals, to ensure that you – all of you – have a place in this global world to be tomorrow’s leaders.”

Claflin President Dr. Henry N. Tisdale urged those in attendance to take advantage of the wealth of information presented during the Tour.

“I believe that this is an opportunity for you to get to know all of the aspects that are very important in education,” he said. “And I believe in education. I believe that it is still the key. I believe that education is that first step to freedom and justice. I believe that it is the great equalizer, even today, and yes, I believe that education is power. And we’re here to help you.”

During the Tour, educators and entrepreneurs shared their personal educational journeys with local high school and college students through workshops on such topics as money management, professional portfolios and self-esteem. Attendees also participated in the Empower Me Tour Zone, an interactive experience that provides students, parents and educators an opportunity to engage with college recruiters and learn about scholarship opportunities.

One of the first sessions of the day was a town hall meeting about succeeding in college and embarking on a fulfilling career, presented by Grammy Award-winning music producer and recording artist David Banner, lifestyle expert and MusicIsMyBusiness Founder Aaron Paxton Arnold and Claflin University Student Government Association President Dillon Isaac.

Arnold said making it through college is about more than just academics.

“I purposefully went 1,000 miles away because I wanted to see if I could make it through college,” he said of why he chose to leave his home in Chicago and attend Florida A&M University. “College is part of the process of starting over.”

After college, Arnold found success in corporate America, but he wasn’t happy.

“Money alone will not make you happy,” he said. “If you could do something for free, what would it be?”

Arnold said that something was music, so he took an 18-month unpaid internship with Sean “Diddy” Combs. And now he is one of the most influential people in the field.

“There’s never a perfect time for a great opportunity,” he said. “It’s not how you start – it’s what you do along the journey.”

Banner said he never wanted to go to college.

“I always wanted to be a rapper,” he continued. “My mom … would put up rent money so I could do talent shows. And folks used to laugh at me.” All that his mom wanted in return was for him to go to college.

So Banner went to Southern University in Baton Rouge, La., and he said he essentially wasted his first two years of college in a haze of alcohol and drug use. But then he discovered it was something he had to pay for.

“And my life changed, because from that point, I started realizing all of this is for me,” he said. “I went from a 1 – literally, a 1 – to a 3.8. I went from a 3.8 to getting a scholarship from the University of Maryland, a full scholarship for an accelerated master’s program, where I had a 3.987. I was in the top five of my class … because I realized that knowledge is my freedom."

"College isn’t just about getting a job and you having a family and you becoming a part of the American system … knowledge is freedom, understanding is freedom.”

Isaac, a senior biology major at Claflin, said he isn’t supposed to be SGA president.

“At the age of 4, 4-1/2 … I was declared mute, which by today’s standards would probably be classified as autistic,” he said. “I’m not supposed to be in the position that I am in today. I went through elementary school, middle school, high school with that hanging over my head, and it wasn’t until I got the Gates Millennial Scholarship that I got involved in student leadership and I kind of was forced to come out of my introverted shell.

“So if your story is similar to mine, I just urge you to step out on faith. It’s because I stepped out on faith … that I ran in these positions and I won. I was able to come out of my shell and stand before you today.”

For more information on the Empower Me Tour, visit For more information about attending Claflin University, visit

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