Young men encouraged to sign up for empowerment conference

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ST. CROIX - Organizers of this year's "Man-Up" male empowerment conference are encouraging boys and young men to sign up, as the conference hopes to inspire and motivate them to achieve more in life is held in its third year next week.

This year's theme is: "Man-Up: Discovering Your Gifts and Talents," with the conference taking place Feb. 4, at the University of the Virgin Islands Sports and Fitness Center on St. Thomas, and Feb. 5 at the UVI campus on St. Croix.

The "Man-Up" Conference was started in 2011 in response to rising cases of violence in the community and the low enrollment rate of young men in higher education.

The conference is an initiative of "Brothers with a Cause," a UVI program that seeks to attract more male students to the university and provide tools and support to help them graduate.

Renowned pediatric neurosurgeon and bestselling author Dr. Benjamin Carson Sr. will be the keynote speaker for the event.

Carson is an outstanding role model for boys and young men and is the embodiment of the conference's theme, according to according to Haldene Davies, an organizer of the event.

"He had the opportunity to turn his life around and now is a gifted surgeon able to help and heal people," Davies said. "This conference will give young men in this community the opportunity to hear from and speak with a world-renowned surgeon, who serves as a positive role model."

In his youth, Carson struggled with poverty, low grades, a horrible temper and low self-esteem, but his mother, who had only a third-grade education, encouraged him to strive for excellence.

His autobiography, "Gifted Hands," became a TNT original movie starring Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Kimberly Elise. He is a full professor of neurosurgery, oncology, plastic surgery and pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, where he has directed pediatric neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center for more than 25 years.

Davies said Carson had a checkered and troubled youth and went through some tough times, but he was able to turn his life around.

"Many of our youth here are going through very similar circumstances, and we are hoping that they will be able to identify with him and change the projection of their future," he said.

Davies said the "Man Up" initiative and conference is geared primarily toward boys in middle school and high school, but the program can also benefit university students and even students who have fallen off of the academic path.

"It is really all-inclusive for males because we want to strengthen the main standing in the community and really learn and exemplify what it means to be a man," he said.

Davies said "Man Up" has grown since it began, and requests continue to come in for the events and programs to include younger students, who need intervention at an earlier age.

Celia Carroll also will be a speaker at the event to focus on non-violence approaches for the students. Months after her son, Jason Carroll, was gunned down in a daylight shooting on Main Street in 2000, Carroll started the St. Thomas chapter of Mothers Against Guns. Since then, she has been actively engaged in activities that promote the value of life and speak against gun violence in the Virgin Islands.

This year's conference will be hosted by radio personality and community activist Rashidi Clenance, and the program will feature performances by recording artists Keidran "Iyaz" Jones of Tortola and Omarie "Wally Kyat" George of St. Thomas.

The conference also will feature the finals of a live poetry contest, along with other entertainment from UVI Dance Squads, and the Ivanna Eudora Kean High School, Charlotte Amalie High School, Central High School and Educational Complex marching bands.

Pre-registration and more information is available from the Male Initiative page on the UVI website at or by calling the office of the UVI president at 693-1000.

- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email to deliver message 'For Girls Only'

On Monday, Addelita Cancryn Junior High School will host its "For Girls Only" conference at 8 a.m. on Feb. 4 in the school cafeteria. This year's program, "STEM: It's a Girl Thing," will focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Tai C. Hunte, a Cancryn alumna and doctor of internal medicine and infectious diseases, will be the guest speaker. Breakout sessions will take place from 9 a.m. to noon, followed by a discussion about STEM projects, from the construction of solar kits to the behind-the-scenes world of forensic science.

For more information, call 774-4540.

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