High school freshman Matthew Dollison molded his personal philosophy during a workshop series based on the SUCCESS for Teens book distributed by the SUCCESS Foundation. “What the workshops have taught me is that it’s my life,” he says. “I have to take responsibility for it so I can have a successful career and future.”
Matthew is one of 15 African-American high school students who signed up for a six-month program created and led by the Orange County (California) Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. Chapter President Barbara L. Bagneris notes that the SUCCESS Foundation-funded SUCCESS for Teens program influences the community “in ways that will have long-lasting effects on society as a whole, as these youths enter college and become the entrepreneurs of tomorrow.” Potential participants were asked to complete a multipage application and commit to attending about 80 percent of the free sessions.
During the workshops, the kids who leaped those hurdles read from SUCCESS for Teens aloud—an approach chosen by majority vote because it didn’t seem like homework, says program creator Alesia Boatright-Jackson, who received help each session from 20 sorority sisters. The book is extremely relatable because it contains stories told by teens in their own words. One of the book’s principles, for example, is that “everything starts with small steps.” Senior Hailey Mayweather, who plans to become a physician in a Third World country, says, “The workshops in this program have taught me the basic yet essential skills needed in order to take my big dreams and break them down into manageable steps.”
Weeknight workshops began with a dinner cooked by Boatright-Jackson, followed by fellowship time so teenagers could get to know each other before reading and discussions began. In Orange County, African-Americans comprise about 2 percent of the population, says Boatright-Jackson, adding that “they don’t have very many black neighbors or friends in their high schools.” She made a point of scheduling activities that encouraged the teens to mingle. Boatright-Jackson calls it “a way to have them meet like-minded, college-bound, career-oriented teenagers who are focused on success.”
Students made presentations, used planning skills and collaborated on projects. And Boatright-Jackson recruited guest speakers who work in fields that the teenagers expressed interest in—a pediatrician who focuses on preventing childhood obesity, a young Stanford grad who runs his family’s companies and advises startup firms, a Microsoft vice president, an information technology professional, a prosecutor, and a consultant in the entertainment industry.
While the SUCCESS Foundation distributes its books free to churches, schools and nonprofits like Delta Sigma Theta, the sorority purchased 50 copies to support the foundation’s mission. And “we will continue to spread the message of the power of what this curriculum can do,” Boatright-Jackson says.
As sophomore and aspiring entrepreneur Jasmine Jackson puts it: “This program dives deeper into common issues that we as teens face every day. SUCCESS for Teens equips teenagers with new knowledge and helpful tools on how to address these issues not only now, but for the rest of our lives.”