VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – As kids in Hampton Roads get ready to go back to school, others are planning for the future.

They’re learning how to be entrepreneurs and leaders all before dinner time thanks to a Virtual Teen Summit hosted by the nonprofit Goal Grinders.

Wanting to reach as many kids as possible, the Maryland-based organization made the event virtual so anyone with the Zoom link could join.

“Any child that wants to learn – we want to teach them. Any child that wants to grow, any child that wants to develop – we want to teach them,” said Goal Grinders Chief Operating Officer Dr. Roselyn Aker-Black.

Dr. Roselyn Aker-Black and Renay Butler, Chief Executive Officer created the nonprofit as a way to teach and inspire our youngest citizens.

“The whole concept of Goal Grinders is [that] it’s really just to introduce children to things that they don’t get on an everyday basis, as well as to bring engaging and fun activities in the STEAM arena,” said Butler.

For the first time ever, they’re offering a free three-day summit for teens. Each day focuses on something different from entrepreneurship to leadership and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Math).

“We have a scientist that’s coming in. She’s working on a cure for COVID. We have a statistician from Georgetown who is world renowned. We have someone in coming in to talk about activism and youth activism,” said Butler.

The participants talk about building relationships and their experiences in the workplace, all the while encouraging questions and participation from the students.

Aker-Black said, “They really are engaging and able to have a conversation. We let them un-mute their mics so that they can actually ask questions, and so it’s a very engaging summit. They’ll have a great time.”

The summit is free and you can register online right now for Thursday’s session, where speakers will focus on science, technology, engineering, the arts and math.

“[On Thursday], the coding portion, they will be able to do that either from a laptop or a tablet so they actually will be doing hands-on coding,” Butler said.

The hope is that kids log off knowing “you can can do and be anything that you want to do or be or become,” Butler said. “Being a leader does not require a title because you can lead anywhere that you are.”

Aker-Black echoed that sentiment adding that “[the] younger generation [has] a voice and they’re using [it].”

In just the first two days, they reported having about 300 students sign up.

By: Erin Miller