SUCCESS in Naperville

A group of six African-American professionals in fields ranging from government to medicine to entertainment spoke to a group of Jefferson Junior High students as part of their first SUCCESS Career Day.

Assistant Principal Jeremy Christian praised the event. “It helped to really give them a visual of what it’s like to be successful,” he said. “A lot of times African-American students, especially in Naperville, they don’t have something that’s positive to look to because they don’t see anyone that looks like them, so our goal today was to offer them alternatives, giving them some tangible people or tangible things to look at, processes and systems where they can kind of mimic their pathway to their future.”

SUCCESS, which stands for “School Using Coordinated Community Efforts to Strengthen Students,” focuses on empowering black and other minority students to achieve greatness.

This was the first SUCCESS event at Jefferson, which has around 70 black students out of their nearly 900 total, a sense of minority that panelists addressed.

“Different doesn’t equal deficient,” said Vanessa McClendon, Deputy Area Director for the Social Security Administration. “And if you put that in the forefront of whatever you do, you’re going to excel at whatever you do because you can stand tall in the confidence, whether you’re one of 200, or you’re one of 1,000. You are uniquely you and you should be proud of that and have that confidence regardless of what your difference is.”

Panelists also stressed the importance of hard work and perseverance. Music producer Tony Russell encouraged the group, saying, “Some of you have goals in your head that you want to do, and if I can tell you anything it’s work hard. It’s not going to come easy, a lot of nights you’re going to cry yourself to sleep, but push, push through it.”

It was a message all panelists were eager to share.

“I love the idea of allowing for students to see successful people of color in all different capacities, so I wanted to make sure I had an opportunity to share my narrative, so that other students know you can achieve these great heights and have an impact on your community,” said Dr. Tiffany Sanders, a clinical psychologist and owner of Sanders & Associates.

The SUCCESS program started at Naperville North and is now at several other schools in District 203.

Naperville News 17’s Evan Summers reports.

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