Ayanna Maxwell | Editor In Chief
Watch the Yard on April 19 launched its first YARDCON, a digital conference for black students who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Watch the Yard, known as the most prominent platform for black college students, fraternities and sororities, created the conference to offer resources and network opportunities for black students across the nation.
Hosted by Watch the Yard founder Jonathan Rabb, the conference began with a gospel music set performed by DJ Ricovelli and a prayer from Hampton University alum Michael Eley. Journalist Roland Martin followed up with an open conversation among HBCU SGA presidents regarding how their schools are adjusting to their new norms. SGA presidents from Tennessee State, Florida A&M, Clark Atlanta and Norfolk State discussed how they’ve remained connected with their students through social media and emphasized the importance of empathy for college students during this time.
Hampton University sophomore and Black Lives Matter Greater NY President Nupol Kiazolu led the next segment, which focused on the impact coronavirus has had on communities. Under Kiazolu’s leadership, Black Lives Matter Greater NY crafted a petition to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, urging him to implement more COVID-19 testing facilities in black communities that have been disproportionately affected.
“If you’re in a community that you know has been hit hard by this pandemic, create a letter, write to your senators or write to your governors,” Kiazlou said.
TV personality and winner of T.I.’s Grand Hustle Krystal Garner hosted a session titled “Hustling Through Corona,” discussing ways to generate income during the quarantine. This session featured entrepreneur Wavey’s World, wedding and lifestyle photographer Reem Virgo and apparel company Support Black Colleges.
As if that wasn’t enough, YARDCON attendees also received tips on resume-building and learned how to maneuver LinkedIn. Renee Reid, a staff UX design researcher at LinkedIn, advised students to draft compelling personal summaries that are concise and meaningful, like elevator pitches.
“Tell a short story about yourself so people are intrigued,” Reid said.
Reid also gave away a free six-month premium Linkedin package to a special YARDCON guest.
Resume expert Elizabeth Fletcher described what HR specialists seek in the ideal resume, including a professional email address, professional summary and transferable skills.
It’s no secret that COVID-19 has taken a major toll on people’s mental health worldwide. Wellness Leader Keith Pough hosted a “Mental Health Check In,” in which he mentioned his three keys to a positive day: gratitude, attitude and servitude. Also, contrary to the popular belief of social media, he argued that it is OK to come out of this quarantine without a new business venture.
“I think we should come out of this with more peace, more perspective and more empathy – not more products,” Pough said.
The Black Mental Health Alliance, also a sponsor of YARDCON, was on standby in the conference’s networking forum for students to interact with therapists one-on-one. The networking forum was also available throughout the conference for attendees to connect with each other.
In the next session, Regan Farley, senior publicist and CEO of the Regan Farley Agency, shared some insight on how to increase social media following.
“Protecting your brand is important,” Farley said. “If you’re a member of an organization, that’s still a brand. Keep in mind what you put out, how it’s perceived and who’s going to see it.”
Rabb introduced Watch the Yard’s #VerifyMyHBCU campaign, targeting HBCUs who are not officially verified on Instagram.
“Out of 98 HBCUs. only 4 are verified,” Rabb said.
Being that many notable PWIs are verified on Instagram, Rabb encouraged HBCU students to visit WatchtheYard.com to sign a petition to get their respective HBCUs the recognition they deserve.
Rapper Dee-1 and founder of ONE Musicfest Steve Canal led an “Inside the Music Industry” segment, followed by special giveaways from Forbes8. Forbes8 introduced eight virtual internship and celebrity mentorship opportunities focused on music, sports, tech, food and beverage, storytelling, influence, fashion, and social impact.
The conference concluded with a virtual performance of “Swag Surf” by creators @We.R.Fly and @Only1Easton. To top it all off, each speaker represented his/her HBCU or Divine Nine organization by wearing paraphernalia throughout the entire show.
YARDCON was a major success, to say the least. Attendees left with knowledge, connections and even internship opportunities. For additional information about YARDCON, visit WatchtheYard.com.