Dr. Charlene Williams inspires Black Youth Summer Institute

Dr. Charlene Williams Inspires as First Black Director of Oregon Department of Education at Black Youth Summer Institute

Dr. Charlene Williams, the first Black Director of the Oregon Department of Education, delivered an empowering message to students of color at the Black Youth Summer Institute.

Her virtual address marked a significant moment for diversity in Oregon’s education system and inspired the next generation of leaders.

Empowering Message to Students of Color

Dr. Williams urged pride and persistence in her speech to approximately 50 students gathered at Southern Oregon University. She emphasized the rich heritage of Black Americans, stating, “We are the descendants of kings, queens, warriors and scholars.” Her words resonated with the young audience, encouraging them to embrace their potential.

The director’s message went beyond historical context. She declared, “You are the creators of your own destiny and capable of shaping the world around you.” This powerful statement aimed to instill confidence and ambition in the students attending the week-long educational summer camp.

Diversity in Oregon’s Education System

Williams highlighted the current state of diversity in Oregon’s schools. She noted that while the student body is increasingly diverse, there remains a significant gap in teacher representation. This disparity underscores the importance of programs like the Black Youth Summer Institute.

The summer camp, organized by the Black Southern Oregon Alliance, provides a unique opportunity for students of color. It offers a range of classes, from drone operation to storytelling through writing and podcasts. The program aims to empower students and showcase potential career paths.

Impact on Students and Families

Parents and organizers emphasized the program’s significance for students of color. Staci Buchwald, a parent, shared her daughter’s experience: “She told me she doesn’t have to worry if someone thinks she’s smart when she’s here.” This sentiment echoes the importance of creating safe spaces for learning and growth.

Sessceal Reynolds, another parent, noted the rarity of her son being told he’s brilliant. The program addresses this gap by providing encouragement and support. Marvin Woodard, the program director, stressed that students “can’t hear support or encouragement enough” at this age.

Future of Education in Oregon

Dr. Larry Gibbs, one of three Black professors at SOU, highlighted the importance of visual representation. His participation in the camp serves as a tangible example of what’s possible for these students. “Ultimately, it’s about empowerment,” he stated.

The Black Youth Summer Institute continues to grow, with parents reaching out months in advance to secure spots for their children.