Life is kind of similar to rides at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo — it’s full of twists and turns, ups and downs and many screams. On Tuesday morning, however, the park was also the scene for inspiration.
Sponsored by Kaiser Permanente, the Empower Youth Summit was held as a day of education and inspiration for Vallejo eighth graders. This was the third time Kaiser Permanente in Napa Solano has put on the Empower Youth Summit in the Vallejo City Unified School District, with the inaugural event starting in 2019 and reaching more than 700 students.
This year, a variety of speakers including former 49er Jerry Rice, ex-Giant Barry Bonds, Cedric the Entertainer and many others from the business, professional sports, and entertainment industries shared life lessons and strategies with students to set them up for success.
Students learned about how to overcome obstacles, develop leadership skills, mental health and wellness, career development, peer pressure, bullying and goal setting.
One of the approximately 500 students at the 2022 event was Hogan Middle School eighth grader Dendrick Dilley.
“I feel like all the speakers were very inspirational and very powerful,” Dilly said. “In my normal every day life I’m not able to see or listen to these very talented individuals. I had heard that some famous people might show up because that’s what happened a few years ago, but to see these famous and very successful people and three to five of them keep coming up, that’s something else. To see Barry Bonds, Jerry Rice and Cedric the Entertainer, people of that stature, that says a lot.”
Dilley said that the main message he was taking for the event was old, but still rang true — “Don’t give up.”
I know it’s an old cliche, but to see and actually hear from people that have used that saying for their benefit meant a lot to me,” Dilley said. “I think I was already on the right path in life, but this feels like reinforcement. It feels like my dream can become more of a reality now.”
Other public speakers included…
- Nor Jemjemian, senior vice president and area manager for Kaiser Permanente Napa Solano
- Chris Walker, MD, physician in chief for Kaiser Permanente Napa Solano
- Kevin Bracy, Motivational Entertainer, Executive Producer, Speaking Coach and Author, REACH One Alliance
- Christine Simmons, Chief Operating Office, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
- Mathew Knowles, record executive, businessman and university lecturer, as well as manager of musical group Destiny’s Child
It was nice to see the kids and their electrical reactions,” Walker said. “All their energy has been sequestered for so long due to the pandemic, so it was nice to see them outside today and all very engaged. That was the two things I wanted them to take home with them today — smiling and being engaged, and giving them hope. I wanted them to start to believe they could accomplish things way beyond even their own imagination.”
Walker said that Kaiser made calls to schools to see what grade the event should target and he said most schools answered with eighth grade.
“We also found a stat that said after eighty grade the decisions people make become more important in one’s lives,” Walker said. “It becomes this thing where if their pathway is bent in the wrong direction too much, it’s tough to break in the right direction.”
Nor Jejemian, the senior vice president and area manager at Kaiser Permanente Napa Solano, agreed with Walker.
“This is a pivotal point in these students’ lives. The Empower Youth Summit provided a day of motivational and inspirational messages from leaders in sports, entertainment and business,” Jemjemian said. “As an organization, Kaiser Permanente, is committed to investing in our youth because they are the leaders of the future and we hope they are encouraged to aim for greatness.”
Vacaville City Council member and Solano College instructor Michael Silva said that he “felt inspired” at the event as well.
“I really have to thank Kaiser for investing so much toward the youth,” Silva said. “The children are our most cherished people in our society because they are our future. I have to thank Kaiser for bringing out some people that seem larger than life and having the kids jump out of their seats to see them.
“I think more than anything, kids want to do something that is meaningful in their lives,” Silva said. “A lot of people reach a fork in the road in their lives where they choose one path or another. This event is to ensure those kids that we will do everything in our power to them and that there is more out there for them in this world. I was happy to see so many people from Kaiser today because the Bay Area is an epicenter for the health care world. That work force thrives here. So we need these kids to have these jobs in the future and play an important role.”