Supporting our youth

Published 9:43 am Tuesday, January 23, 2018

From high school students submitting applications and finishing exams to college students determining their career paths, the Heart of Virginia’s youth have difficult decisions ahead of them as they determine their education and careers.

There to offer support and stories were representatives of the Leadership of Tomorrow conference, which was held at Charleys Waterfront Cafe on Jan. 5.

The conference was organized by Wilbert Dean, who many know as the founder of Ellis Acres Memorial Park in Dillwyn. Citing his own experiences from living in the Farmville area as a kid to traveling internationally in the military, he encouraged students on the high school and college levels to broaden their perspectives and take initiative in regard to the career opportunities available.

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Also speaking during the conference were two of Dean’s sons, Jonathan and Justin.

Jonathan owns several dentist practices in Las Vegas, and Justin is the first African-American partner with Boston Consulting Group, based in Washington, D.C.

Another speaker, Chris Duffas, of Washington, D.C., works for a technology company,, that specializes in Bitcoin currency; Jeremiah Hunt spoke as a vice president of senior business banking relationship manager; Jason Murillo, who had worked as a conductor and engineer for CSX Transportation and Railroad, spoke about his career and attending Liberty University to major in business; and Funmi Baldauf-Dean, who works in the medical field, spoke about overcoming discrimination growing up in Australia.

Today’s students face a unique set of challenges, from managing the increased tuition of college education to adapting to an ever-changing job market.

Dean and each speaker during the event provided a much-needed space where students could ask questions, voice their struggles or concerns, learn professional strategies and form personal connections.

I hope we can follow Dean’s example and work to support this program and similar programs in the area.

EMILY HOLLINGSWORTH is a staff reporter for The Farmville Herald and Farmville Newsmedia LLC. Her email address is Emily.Hollingsworth@