Island Voice News


The panelists of the New York Urban League's "Life After Shaolin" event.

Young people today truly live in the information age. They have a tremendous amount of resources available through digital media to begin searching future opportunities and setting personal goals. Many have developed relationships with adults in their lives for mentorship. Although there is this vast trove of information, many younger people find it difficult to set a course for the future.

The New York Urban League’s Young Professionals invited six successful individuals to speak to young people facing the daunting task of deciding an approach to a career. Entitled “Life After Shaolin – Putting Perspective to Possibility’” the event was held at the St. George Library Center on Staten Island.  The Young Professionals group of the NYUL is a volunteer entity of the parent organization with a mission of empowering younger people and to support the goals the NYUL.

The panelists included:  Mathew Isaac – information technology specialist, Charles Fall – Borough Director of Staten Island for the NYC Mayor’s Office, Shannon Watkins – Press Secretary for State Senator Diane Savino (D-Staten Island/Brooklyn), Joel Mowatt – engineer and graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI),  Krystal Garner –model and actor and Island Voice’s own Shereese Mullings.

The backgrounds and life experiences of the panelists were very different thus providing the audience with a variety of perspectives on life, careers, social relationships and direction. This was perhaps best illustrated by the response to the question of encountering culture shock. As these panelists had grown up in New York City, many on Staten Island, the shock of attending university elsewhere was pronounced. The realization set in very quickly for most if not all of the speakers that culture outside of New York is extremely different and the world is far bigger than the city of their early life. One described attending college in Kansas and living in a place where there far fewer people of color. Attitudes of locals varied differently, as well from kindness to outright hostility. All of the panelists said that the experiences while difficult, taught them valuable lessons and as result have a sharper sense of direction.

Perhaps the best takeaways from the event concerned role models and lessons/ advice for those on their way to success. All of the panelists credited their parents for the examples of individuals that stood tall and pressed ahead even under the most of circumstances. Many talked of the mentors that had meet along the way – a teacher in middle school, a sports coach or a religious leader in their place of worship. Krystal Garner sees Thandie Newton as someone she considers an excellent role model with the work that Ms. Newtown does in her craft along with her humanitarian work and philanthropy. Joel Mowatt sees Elon Musk, the South African entrepreneur, engineer and inventor as an example of contemporary success. Charles Fall stated simply: “Listen to your elders,” while Shrereese stated emphatically listen to the voices of your peers as well.

Lessons and advice proved to be very practical and simple yet in some ways hard learned. When moving on to a university, many of the panelists spoke of initial success followed by a sharp failure. The panel was unanimous in stating that one should not fear making mistakes because there are lessons in failure that one must study and learn from to achieve success.  This was attributed to the lack of supervision in college as well unfamiliarity of prioritizing life.  Thus, the three main rules of university life:  manage your time, learn how to learn and seek support structures.  For most people, entering university particularly a school far from home will be the first time living alone and this can prove daunting, therefore, a newly arrived student should dive into university life with its myriad of clubs, organizations including Greek Life.

With regard to financing the education needed to reach higher levels, Mr. Mowatt recommended using the internet to locate quite a few scholarships open and available to students. He recommends using the app “SCHOLLY” available at: to help in the search.

The discussion ended on a positive note with the young professionals stating emphatically that in order to achieve one must dream big and then act. Forward movement is essential for your success otherwise someone else will be successful in your place.



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