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Inaugural Determination to Succeed Back to School Summit will focus on Black boys in the greater Madison community

Jamaal Eubanks mentors a student. (Photo supplied.)

Jamaal Eubanks has spent a good portion of his career mentoring students and youths and helping them to reach their full potential. Now, he is preparing to host the first-ever fun and informative back-to-school summit for Black boys in the greater Madison area.

Eubanks, the founder of a variety of community organizations including Pivotal Transition, a mentorship organization serving youth aged 8 to 19 looking to uplift Black young people and their families, will host “The Determination to Succeed Back to School Summit” at Capital High School on Regent Street on Saturday, Aug. 17.

“I’m super excited about this summit. It’s something that has been on my mind for a couple of years now,” Eubanks tells Madison365. “During this past winter break, when a lot of people are thinking about their New Year’s resolutions and whatnot, it just kinda hit me – you gotta do it.  You’ve been thinking about it for too long.” 

Eubanks describes The Determination to Succeed Back to School Summit as “a fresh start, a reset … a changed mindset to excel in school this year.”

Eubanks wrote the book, “The Determination to Succeed,” a story of perseverance and resilience through the lens of self-reflection, for young people in the summer of 2020. Since then, he has developed The Determination to Succeed program which has been contracted by local area schools and has had a great deal of success. 

“Over the years, I’ve started with the Fuel or Crutch, and then it just kind of has grown to incorporate more sessions that have dealt with the perseverance, the resilience, the goal setting, and things of that nature and it kind of all just came together because they feed off of and piggyback off of each other,” says Eubanks. Fuel or Crutch is a movement he started that focuses on positivity and overcoming adversity in a neverending effort to become great. “I combined it into one and called it ‘The Determination to Succeed.’ 

“I’ve literally gotten contacted from different schools and school districts to come in and help whether it be a group of students or an entire school,” Eubanks adds. “The results from it have been incredible. People want me to come out there and do it with their school and students but so many times, unfortunately, it’s from a reactive approach. My desire is to do it from a proactive approach.”

Eubanks says that he has had schools call him in November to work with a handful of kids or a group of students who want to go through the work he does. For him, he says, that’s oftentimes too late. “They’re already at a deficit. They’re already behind. Some have already kind of checked out and are ready to give up,” Eubanks says. “I end up feeling like I’m coming in as a band-aid to help get them through that semester or that quarter, whatever the case is. 

“But one particular school district asked me to do it at the beginning of the school year, and the results from what the kids did were remarkable … all the kids that I worked with, in that cohort, all their grade point averages went up,” Eubanks says. “A kid who had a 1.7 [GPA] before I intervened, ended up with a 2.2 as I was working with him. Another kid had a 1.0, ended up with a 2.8 and another kid that was actually doing pretty well with a 2.8 did even better after I started working with him and got a 3.5 GPA.”

With that idea of being proactive in mind, Eubanks is getting set to host the inaugural Determination to Succeed Back to School Summit to set the tone for students at the beginning of the year, teaching them how to self-reflect and apply it, set goals and pursue them, and to dream big and chase those dreams.  

Eubanks, who grew up on the South Side of Madison, co-created the mentoring program, Pivotal Transition, which focues on giving Black youth the tools to look beyond tomorrow. 

“I have that personalized background of growing up here in a single-parent home. No father figure in the home or any of that nature, but I did have some great mentors who just helped to shape me and give me the tools and strategies to become successful,” Eubanks says. “It may not have registered right then and there but it was ingrained. So at some point, when I started to mature and see things differently, those lessons that they gave really hit home at that point.”

With this Back To School Summit, Eubanks is realizing how important it is to get to the students before the school year starts.

“It’s like a reset. It’s a fresh start. They get the tools and the skills that they’re going to need and strategies to help them to be successful in the upcoming school year,” he says. “But also just making sure that they understand and know that even though last year may not have gone the way they wanted it to or hoped it would, let’s come out and create what you want it to look like this year. Let’s work on going forward. 

“That’s really my hope … to get the students ready and locked in for the school year and loaded with the skills that are going to help them be successful.”

Eubanks is looking to have 40 participants, all African American boys, at this first inaugural event.

“We are targeting Black boys just because right now they’re one of the lowest performing populations in schools, K-12 and higher ed,” he says. “And so I wanted to target them. We got to do something for our boys.

“We’re going to be two workshop sessions. So in the morning, there’ll be an a.m. session and then there’ll be a p.m. session with 20 boys apiece,” Eubanks says. “So that way we can have some of those intimate conversations that can help them to grow.”

Jamaal Eubanks mentors students.

During the middle part of the summit, there’ll be a DJ with music, lunch and a speaker panel of individuals who are local success stories.

“I don’t believe that the students really relate to somebody coming in who is already at that peak of the mountaintop and don’t know the story of how they got there,” Eubanks says. “A lot of people that I’m connected to are success stories are where they may have come from a single-parent home or come from a home where there may have been abuse or the families were low-income …  things of that nature. So students can literally see themselves from where these people were to where they are now. That story of the in-between needs to be told.”

Eubanks, who earned an undergraduate degree at Huntingdon College and two master’s degrees from Edgewood College, hosts his own podcasts where he tackles a lot of these educational and life topics.

“During the speaker panel at the summit it will be similar to how my podcast goes to just to talk with the panelists about their past and their upbringing and things of that nature for the kids to see,” Eubanks says. “At that point in time, both groups [of boys] will be there. So the a.m. session will go through the workshop and will come in. We’ll have the DJ playing music and the other group is coming for lunch, they’ll have lunch, and we’ll have the speaker panel. 

“That first a.m. group will leave and that second afternoon group will come in and do their time with the workshop and then that’ll be the end of the day.”

The inaugural The Determination to Succeed Back to School Summit will take place from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. with a one-hour break for music, panel session and lunch. Eubanks says that he is well aware that there are a lot of organizations doing great Back to School events, but “this one is personal for me.”

“I’ve already had some sponsors and donors who have contributed which I’m extremely thankful for and hoping that I gain some more so this can be done at no cost to any student,” Eubanks says. “We know that not all the students or families have the means but yet still have the desire for the results. So how do we give them this information?”

Registration opens for The Determination to Succeed Back to School Summit on June 3. Sponsorship opportunities are available. Email [email protected]