St. John’s hosts boro teens for open house on business

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Dozens of Queens teenagers went to St. John’s University Friday night to discover how they can get a head-start in the business field of their choice.

Sponsored by Business Leaders of Tomorrow and the Jamaica and Flushing branches of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the open house brought Queens business leaders and young people together.

“We are trying to bridge the gap between the two generations,” said Van Holmes, founder and president of B.L.O.T., which is based at St. John’s University.

Janice Villiers, an associate professor of law at the university, welcomed the teens to the campus.

Other speakers at the event included Jean Phelps and Kenneth Cohen, leaders of the Jamaica and Flushing branches of the NAACP; and Fred Simmons from state Sen. Malcolm Smith’s (D-St. Albans) office.

A game of “human bingo” forced the teenagers to get out of their seats and introduce themselves to the business people in the room. At the same time, DJ music provided by Two Nice gave the seminar a party-like atmosphere.

To fill in the squares of the bingo board, the teens searched for people with strange talents, like someone who could touch his tongue to his nose or a person who could name all the Ivy League colleges.

York College student Katonia Hobbs met several people while searching for someone whose favorite color was brown. She said she attended the open house because it sounded interesting and she wanted to get a jump-start on a future career in finance and investment.

Among the small group discussions Hobbs had to choose from were a banking and finance seminar led by Scott Ford, a discussion of “five key things to be successful” led by Andrew Burnett and a government and law group led by Allison Felix.

Douglas Sam, 14, a Bayside High School student from Cambria Heights, joined Felix’s discussion because he said he is interested in becoming a criminal lawyer.

His neighbor and fellow Bayside High student Anthony Darden, 15, said he joined Business Leaders of Tomorrow because “it helps you get better job experience when you grow up.”

Darden said the program also showed teens that “people care for you.”

Ricardo Kipplings, 16, an August Martin High School student who lives in Cambria Heights, said he came to the open house to look for opportunities to further his career in computer engineering.

Music-themed discussion groups were very popular, with Bill Owens of Chain Reaction Records in Jamaica attracting about 30 young people to his seminar on the recording industry.

Owens said he signed on to the open house event because he hoped to act as a positive role model like others did for him when he was a teenager.

“Teens need guidance,” Owens said. “I try to help out as much as possible.”

Jason Spawn of Pro Ghetto Entertainment, a South Jamaica-based R&B and Hip-Hop label, led a second seminar on music production.

“I basically tell them what I did to get started,” Spawn said of the seminar. “It’s a hard game.”

The authors of tomorrow were able to find a mentor in Jason Spencer-Edwards of Laurelton, who published a novel, “Jiggy,” about a young man who grew up in the projects and tried very hard to fit in with wealthier kids, only to find out that life was not all about material things.

Spencer-Edwards said he came to the open house to show young people that others just like them have reached their goals and to “let them know we can do a lot of good things.”

For more information about B.L.O.T., call 658-9656.

Reach reporter Betsy Scheinbart by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 138.

Updated 10:26 am, October 12, 2011
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