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‘Kings’ Summer Program Helps At-Risk Youth Gain Life Skills

hammer-130-XLBelmont University is continuing its investment in Nashville-area African-American youth through its partnership with 100 Kings. For the tenth consecutive summer, nonprofit organization 100 Black Men has held its summer camp 100 Kings on Belmont’s campus.

The annual six-week camp is the summer portion of an eight-year mentoring program through which 100 Black Men of Middle Tennessee adopts African-American fifth, sixth and seventh  graders and offers them academic enrichment , experiential learning opportunities and mentoring. About 70 percent of “Kings” qualify for reduced and free lunches. Upon completion of the program and graduation from high school, they are eligible to receive up to $20,000 in scholarships from 100 Black Men.

“The goal is to get them to graduate from high school and college,” said 100 Kings Director Donovan Robertson.

This summer’s experiential learning has included building a house at the Adventure Science Center with If I Had a Hammer and a car wash. Kings spent two weeks in Belmont classrooms learning about the tools and skills needed to build a house as well as accounting and marketing.

“Through the class we have taken them through every part of starting your own business, like net worth statements, how to talk to investors and pitch your idea, organizational planning. I really feel like they are walking away from this program with the skills they need to launch their own businesses and understand finances in the real world. So they would have the competencies to create jobs themselves and see that they could bring something of value to the community and be their own bosses,” said Clarissa Donaldson, director of the 100 Kings Entrepreneurship and Financial Literacy Summer Program.  “This whole experience has been an answered prayer and a blessing. I am only a junior undergraduate student, and I am really interested in economic development through education. So it has been awesome to be in a leadership role, create a curriculum and see the spirit of these kids every day.”

Donaldson has worked with Associate Professor of Finance John Gonas and Belmont Enactus members to teach the campers financial literacy, capital budgeting, small business development and the mathematics of construction.

hammer-108-L“This is the first year we have done something this innovative,” Gonas said. “If I Had a Hammer is an established curriculum, and we are putting more structure to it and a business plan to teach entrepreneurship, basic construction management and basic real estate management. It could be a way for nonprofits to generate revenue and offer sustainable employment to the people they serve.”

During summer camp, Kings also study math and English with teachers from Metro schools and surrounding universities as well as learn about conflict resolution, health and wellness. Kings have toured the Inman Health Sciences Building, including the simulation labs, and recorded music in the Robert E. Mulloy Student Studios in the Center for Music Business.

“We value the relationship here at Belmont, and we are looking forward to deepening that relationship, so we are doing more on Belmont’s campus and exposing the students to everything that Belmont has to offer,” Robertson said.

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