Keynote speaker Erik Roberts, Cook County Sheriff Youth Services Department.RoundTable photo

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Many of the charitable works of the Delta Signa Theta sorority involve young women, but once a year the focus is on young black men with the annual EMBODI summit – Empowering Males to Build Opportunities for Developing Independence.

The theme for this year’s EMBODI Summit, held on Oct. 4 at King Arts School in conjunction with the Fellowship of African American Males, or FAAM, was “TIPOFF” – Transforming Individuals to Perform Overcoming Frustrations and Fears.

“This day is about making sure we help you to succeed and make a successful life story for you,” Toni Rodgers, president of the Evanston North Shore Alumnae Chapter, told the dozen or so teens and preteens at the summit. “We need to coach you and help you get to where you need to get in life.”

Keynote Speaker Erik Roberts, who works in the youth division of the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, said, “You have to get comfortable with the guy you really are. You have to get comfortable playing different roles but not forget who you are.”

Mr. Roberts told of the decisions he and some of his high-school classmates had made that took them on differing paths. Having graduated from Thornton High School with a 3.8 grade GPA, he went on to college in Missouri. He also spoke of how much he loved spending time with his father, receiving letters from him and talking to him on the phone. Only later in his speech did he reveal that his father had spent most of his adult life in prison.

“My dad’s story does not have to be my story and it does not have to be your story. … The single thing I learned from my dad is how easy it is for anybody to slip up. He allowed himself to be around people who took him in a different direction. He showed that getting off track is much easier than you think  [regardless of the support you have] – and all you need is one or two guys to pull you back and you will fall all the way to the ground.”

Mr. Roberts led a session titled “Social Media: Too Much Information.” Other sessions were on the topics of personal branding, responding to the police, self-advocacy, video gaming and life before and after sports, presented by Jovon Corbin, Mike Montgomery, Kyle Wideman, Ben Holliman, Carlton Redmond, Eric Dortch and Willie Miller.

Ms. Rodgers said the speakers for the program were all local community leaders. “Often other people can give our children information that helps them grow. [In choosing speakers] we have to have stellar role models who have credibility and have been in the community,” she said.

Delta Sorority member Delores Holmes, who also serves as alderman of the Fifth Ward, said one of Delta’s missions is to “make sure there are services for boys as well as girls. It’s a wonderful thing to expose [boys and girls] to every possible avenue. It’s always good to meet young people and let them know that there are people around them who want them to succeed.”