TUPELO • Dozens of men of all ages attended the 2019 Male Empowerment Symposium Saturday.

The free event, which was created with young men ages eight to 18 in mind, was held at the North Green Street Church of Christ Family Life Center.

“We want young men to see beyond their brokenness, beyond their area and start to examine what they can do for society,” said Richard Price, senior minister of NGSCOC, who partnered with Real Men Stand Up founder Tyson Quinn to plan the event. Price said the symposium was meant to be a partnership and the beginning of a conversation in the community. He plans to have similar conversations in upcoming months.

The symposium’s theme was “The Possibilities are Endless,” and Sean Suggs, president of Toyota Mississippi, was introduced as the keynote speaker.

Suggs included five key points in his message: graduate, dream big, trust, risk taker and attitude. He referenced men such as Barack Obama and Michael Jordan as personal inspirations for him and encouraged attendees to get their high school diploma.

“Growing up in the inner city of Baltimore, I didn’t even think me being the president of (Toyota Mississippi) would be possible when I was that young,” Suggs said.

A panel discussion featured local male leaders in the community, including Rob Picou, superintendent for Tupelo Public School District; Michael Bowens, sergeant for Tupelo Police Department; Joseph Smith, former college basketball coach and current high school basketball coach in Topeka, Kansas; Quinn and Suggs.

For Picou, his involvement in the panel was inspired by a desire to see more underrepresented children in advanced placement classes.

“I look at this as an opportunity to speak directly to the community to encourage these young folks to jump on and take advantage of these opportunities that exist,” Picou said.

Bowens said his involvement came from seeing people being arrested. His goal is to encourage young men to change themselves and prove that they can be successful regardless of their background.

“It’s all about instilling positivity in people instead of breaking them down,” Bowens said.

Smith said his experience working with young men for a living is what made him want to speak at the symposium.

“Anytime I can share some of my experiences and give people some words of wisdom and help them along the way, I’m all for it,” Smith said.

Quinn said the goal of the symposium was to change mindsets and help build community. He wanted to show attendees an example of positive groups of men in the community who work together and respect one another.

“We’re in positions where we all started at the low end of the table and we worked our way up, and that’s what I hope to see with these conversations,” Quinn said.

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