On July 18, the Haitian Studies Institute (HSI) Young Scholars Civics Institute participants heard from an impressive group of leaders as special guests Jaylen Smith—the mayor of Earle, Arkansas, who in January became one of the youngest U.S. mayors ever elected—as well as and producer, songwriter B. Howard, visited the campus to share their stories as part of the “NextGen Transformational Leadership Program.”

Earle, Arkansas Mayor Jaylen Smith speaks to youth at the “NextGen Transformational Leadership Program” event on July 18 at Brooklyn College.

Earle, Arkansas Mayor Jaylen Smith speaks to youth at the “NextGen Transformational Leadership Program” event on July 18 at Brooklyn College.

The Young Scholars Civics Institute, which launched in summer 2022 to engage and inspire young people between the ages of 18 and 24, teaches the fundamentals of civic engagement, leadership, cooperative and critical thinking skills through various programs. Throughout the three-week program, students visit historical and cultural sites, and dialogue with guest speakers from various backgrounds and age groups, including local political and community leaders.

Recently the HSI, which operates out of Brooklyn College under Director Marie Lily Cerat, received a renewal grant of $1 million from the New York City Council to help bolster its already vibrant social research and cultural programming that serves its diasporic community.

“Having these young leaders inspire our program participants is invaluable,” Cerat said. “Our goal is to show these young people how to become the leaders and change agents of tomorrow and we thank everyone for their support as we continue this journey with this group of impressive young people.”

Smith also visited with Brooklyn College President Michelle J. Anderson, who said having someone like Smith on campus to help inspire future leaders perfectly aligns with the college’s mentorship efforts.

“Mayor Jaylen Smith has achieved a historic accomplishment and we are proud to host him on our diverse and vibrant campus,” Anderson said. “We hope the wisdom he shares from his journey to politics helps this group of young people become engaged in issues that matter so that they can make their own positive impact in their communities.”

The event was also attended by Alix Desulme, the Mayor of North Miami and the president and CEO of Lead to Excel USA that works with the HSI; Linda Julien, Councilmember from Miami Gardens, Florida; and Pierre Frantz Charles, Councilmember from North Miami, Florida. All three attended the event to show their support for the HSI and the NextGen Transformational Leadership Program.

Other leaders and elected officials also attended and addressed the special guests and the cohort, including Assistant Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office Community Affairs Unit Lamona Worrell; Councilmember Mercedes Narcisse (District 46); Councilmember Farah N. Louis (District 45); Councilmember Rita Joseph (District 40); Councilmember from Irvington Township, New Jersey and Chair of the National Haitian American Elected Officials Network Charnette Frederic; Manager of Community/Constituency Services from the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs Lovely Paulemon, and others.