In a session designed to motivate teens to consider opportunities in tech, songwriter Ronnie Eric urged a captive audience, “If you love to do it, pursue it!”
Meanwhile, to his left, East Los Angeles-based artist Daniel Flores was live sketching a painting that couldn’t wait until the end of Eric’s talk to be completed.
Flores able hands carefully etched in single-hued watercolor a man standing tall in his beliefs, with a drum in his right hand and left hand pointing in the direction of students in the audience.
The combined message was clear: stop waiting for the right opportunity to come along; instead, create it.
This seemed to be one of the most prominent messages of the Entrepreneurship & Tech Conference for High School Students powered by Twitter, hosted at General Assembly’s co-working lab at Ponce City Market on March 1.
During the half-day event, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., Atlanta-area students gained other nuggets of wisdom in art panels and discussions, including ones titled, “Tech to the Future” and “Millionaire Next.”
During the course of the three-hour conference, students from various Atlanta-area schools took a day off from their regular studies to learn more about app development, immerse themselves amongst artisans, learn of opportunities in the tech industry, and also how to harness their inner power create the lives they want.
Kadeem Dunwell, CEO and Founder of The Young Entrepreneurs of Atlanta Foundation, hosted the event that invited a number of technology industry executives— marketing experts, software developers, and C-suite executives like Microsoft to the conference.
“This event was put on out of necessity,” he said. “Our organization was founded to inspire and motivate kids to become entrepreneurs and give them the tools that are necessary to do so.”
“The biggest tool that’s missing is exposure as it relates to young people and what they believe In what they can do when they get older and what they can actually see from day to day,” Dunwell said.
Gathering students from Martin Luther King, Calhoun County, South Dekalb, and Arabian Mountain high schools, Dunwell said he believes his sole purpose for creating programs for youth is to have them unlearn a system that teaches kids how to be trained to go work for instead of creating the opportunity that they wanted.
Dunwell’s inspiration for the conference was birthed out of his own failure to create an opportunity during his matriculation at Florida A&M University when he has an idea to launch an online magazine but did not possess the resources to make it happen.
Wanting to bridge that gap between the resources and execution, Dunwell employed a host of artists and marketing executives, including Fabian Williams, Cortez Bryant, Kerry Abner and others to inspire young men like attendees 17-year-old Joshua Hagler and 17-year-old Michael Hood, both students at Martin Luther King High School.
“I’m thinking about starting a new app with my friends; also, I wanted to start on building a brand, but it’s about going out networking and doing what you got to get done,” Hagler said. “It’s also about not being nervous, having confidence and finding people who are in the same field as you,”
During his own talk, former gangbanger-turned-artist Flores impressed upon the students that his rough upbringing almost distracted him from realizing his own dream.
“Drawing is that one thing that kept me away from trouble and also kept me focused on something that I liked,” Flores said. “I did not know that artists could get paid to draw, I didn’t know cartoons were made by artists or that comic books were made by artists.
“I did not know that artists got paid, so I was just drawing it cause I liked it, but once I found out that there was a business opportunity in being able to draw, I focused in on it,” he added.
Flores then explained to the students the various career opportunities related to art and drawing. He also expressed to them the importance of being unique and drawing from their cultural backgrounds to stand out from the pack.
“My culture, my heritage I’m Mexican, my parents are from Mexico. I was born in L.A.,” he shared. “The one thing you’ll notice in my art is the themes that I draw are Aztec Warriors and Gods because that my heritage.”