The Mentorship Series, hosted by the Urban Experience Program and Institutional Access, invites prominent local and national figures to speak to business-minded students and showcase what it means to be successful.
The latest talk, held last Friday at the Cullen Oaks Community Center, featured Deborah Duncan, the host of Great Day Houston, and Jaja Ball, co-founder of Cobert/Ball Tax Service, as they spoke on their personal histories and what got them into their respective fields.
“Deborah Duncan is a figure, she’s a celebrity and she’s also on our scholarship committee,” Urban Experience director Robbie Evans said. “(The event showcased) what she has to say, how she became who she is today, all the bumps in the road that she had to navigate.”
“So this is the kind of thing that students ought to hear about — that you don’t give up when there’s one road block in your way; you just keep pushing ahead.”
The series has hosted several talks this semester. Past talks have featured prominent figures such as President and CEO of Reliant Energy Jason Few, Mayor Annise Parker and Benjamin Banneker Institute of Math and Science founder Peggy Seats.
The Urban Experience Program exists for first-generation college students and Pell Grant recipient students and acts as an all-encompassing program to provide mentorship talks, scholarships and tutoring.
“We do whatever we can to help students navigate the system. Particularly when you don’t have someone in your family who has been to college before, it can be challenging, especially a big university like (UH),” Evans said.
“Our motto is encourage, enlighten, empower, embrace and engage the students in what goes on at the University so that they will know what’s available and they will take advantage of it in the right way.”
These themes were carried on in the speeches, but above everything, both speakers emphasized the importance of persistence.
“You have to eat, drink and sleep business if you want to be a business person,” Ball said. “It’s very important that you have the right mindset for business.”
Duncan also stressed, using her personal history as an example, that what students have in mind for a career may not end up being where they end up.
“When you look at what it is you want to do, no experience you have is wrong. No job you have is wrong,” Duncan said. “There is power in getting up, getting dressed and especially working in a team effort and earning that paycheck — that is always something powerful and good. But in terms of what you really want to do, what you call your career, look at what you always did as a kid, who you really are, because that way you’ll love what you do, and although you work hard, you won’t feel like you’re working.”