Leaders, students connect at NNPS RISE! Male Empowerment Conference

Posted: February 14, 2024

Newport News Public Schools Youth Development Department hosted its 4th annual RISE! Male Empowerment Conference on February 10 at Heritage High School.

Nearly 300 students in grades 6-12 connected with nurturing adults throughout a day of empowerment sessions focused on topics such as positive self-image, accountability, leadership and the importance of mental health. Emerge, empower, excel were the three tenets of the conference.

"It's always a good showing of individuals from various community organizations that come, including from churches and schools," said Michael Nichols, Youth Development supervisor.

"We have RISE! coaches at the schools who make sure that their kids get there. And then they come and stay and support them as well. Some of them even did sessions."

Congressman Bobby Scott made remarks as the event kicked off and Grammy-nominated musician SaulPaul gave the opening charge.

Community leaders served as presenters for interactive workshops. More than 15 different topic sessions were offered and students signed up for three to attend.

During the first session, adults in the building gathered for a village chat conversation to explore ways to better support young men in Newport News. Participants at the event's opening Sea of Supporters-men representing dozens of fraternities and civic and faith-based organizations-lined the hallways to welcome attendees and were invited to the opening discussion and village chat.

During lunch, students interacted with presenters while enjoying a DJ playing music. After the last session, the closing included giveaways and an artist relating his story to messages about making the right decisions to be successful and having empathy to always encourage others.

"We had students look around to all of the people who were still in the auditorium and all the people who had been working with them during the day," Nichols said. "Everyone is here to support you. Just know that there is support out here for you if you need it or if you want it."