College and Vocational Career Fair seeks to address growing wealth gap in Brooklyn communities

Dr. Lisa Millsaps-Graham, third from left, front row, and Brooklyn Canarsie Lions Club President Jean Joseph, fourth from left, and Brooklyn Canarsie Lions.
Photo by Nelson A. King

Dr. Lisa Millsaps-Graham – who, with her husband, Hashim Muhammad-Graham, P.E., on Saturday coordinated a College and Vocational Career Fair in conjunction with the Brooklyn Canarsie Lions College and Vocational Career Planning team – says that the event “showcased a concerted effort to address the growing wealth gap in Brooklyn communities.”

Dr. Millsaps-Graham told Caribbean Life on Tuesday that the event, at P.S. 227, on East 83rd Street in Canarsie, Brooklyn, was held under the theme, “Advancing My Future.”

She said the initiative, “keenly supported” by Brooklyn Canarsie Lions Club President, Jean Joseph, “aimed to raise awareness, elevate, and equip neighbors with the necessary tools to secure and sustain personal and generational wealth through higher education and career advancement.”

“Despite enthusiastic responses from hundreds of Eventbrite registrants, who resonated with the vision through flyers, advertisements or personal invitations, the event saw a turnout of only 25 percent,” Dr. Millsaps-Graham said. “Those attendees were treated to a rich and diverse program.”

She said the event featured more than 40 vendor tables, representing institutions such as State University of New York (SUNY), City University of New York (CUNY), Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), private colleges, trade schools and vocational alternatives, “catering to a wide range of educational aspirations.”

“Workshops delved into strategic college planning, navigating financial aid, advocating for the benefits of a campus hustle, and emphasizing the importance of staying engaged within academic environments,” Dr. Millsaps-Graham said.

She said a highlight of the event was “a lively flash mob step show” by the Mu Nu X Fraternity from Brooklyn College, “injecting a vibrant and interactive element at the fair.”

Dr. Millsaps-Graham said another highlight was “the presence and empowering words” from elected officials, including Assemblywoman Monique Chandler-Waterman, representative for the 58th Assembly District; and Councilmembers Mercedes Narcisse, representative for the 46th Council District, and Farah Louis, representative for the 45th Council District — all in Brooklyn.

“We cannot afford not to compete,” Narcisse, a Haitian-born registered nurse by training, told fair attendees. “I’ve started putting vocational schools in the high schools. All of my students can’t be a doctor, or a lawyer or a nurse.”

Later, she told Caribbean Life that “exposing our children to events like the College and Vocational Career Fair is so important in shaping their future success and personal development.

“Such experiences provide invaluable opportunities for young scholars to explore various academic and career pathways,” Narcisse said. “By introducing children to a diverse array of educational and vocational opportunities, we open doors they may not have even known existed, allowing them to discover their passions and interests, helping them make more informed decisions about their academic and career paths.”

She applauded the Brooklyn Canarsie Lions Club’s commitment to service, stating that it  “shines brightly through their many community initiatives, which significantly enhance the quality of life in Canarsie and beyond.”

“I was thrilled to partner with them and other local elected officials in hosting this College and Vocational Career Fair,” Narcisse said. “This event underscores our dedication to empowering our youth with the knowledge and resources needed to succeed.

“I commend the vendors and volunteers whose selfless contributions made this event possible,” she added.

Joseph, a Dominica-born certified public accountant, also told Caribbean Life that the Brooklyn Canarsie Lions Club is “a service organization with a significant community involvement.”

“Sponsoring a college fair demonstrates a commitment to assisting local students and their educational objectives,” she said. “The club had links to local schools and resources, making the fair more accessible to children who might not have otherwise attended, as well as those in smaller areas who might benefit from a more customized experience.

“The college fair focused on giving students with useful information and guidance,” added Joseph, stating that “the fair was successful because it connected students with colleges that met their needs and interests.”

Dr. Millsaps-Graham said that “Advancing My Future” succeeded in providing “a comprehensive platform for community members to explore educational and career pathways, fostering dialogue and empowerment.”

Moving forward, she said the Canarsie Lions College and Vocational Career Planning team will be considering strategies “to enhance outreach and engagement, ensuring that the valuable resources and insights shared at such events reach a broader audience and continue to make a meaningful impact in addressing socio-economic disparities.”

The list of participating vendor tables comprised: US Army; NYC Department of Correction; Virginia State University; KAPPA DELTA PI sorority; Metropolitan College of New York; CUNY Brooklyn College; CUNY Guttman Community College; CUNY Kingsborough Community College; CUNY Borough of Manhattan Community College; CUNY La Guardia Community College; CUNY Reconnect; CUNY Staten Island College; CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies; Long Island University- Brooklyn Campus; SUNY Plattsburgh; SUNY Morrisville; SUNY Genesee Community College; and SUNY Tompkins Cortland Community College.

Others were: Brooklyn Adult Learning Center; Coalition of Concerned Medical Professionals; Small Business Administration – SBA; Lincoln Tech; Unified Political Association; NYC District Council; Berkshire Hathaway; Primerica; The Hope Program; East Flatbush Village, Inc.; and Millenium.