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Local students discuss teen issues at WSCC; listen to former NFL player
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Area teens met at the Washington Street Community Center Saturday for a Teen Summit to discuss a variety of teen issues and to learn about entrepreneurship from former NFL player and McDonald’s franchise owner Van Jakes.

The program was sponsored by the Covington Chi Tau Omega chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, America’s first greek-letter organization established by Black college women, which has vowed to be more active with WSCC, local member Bresha Franklin said.

The Story of an Entrepreneur

Jakes played defensive back at Kent State University and in the NFL for 8 years with the Kansas City Chiefs, Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints. He said he always thought playing in the NFL was the epitome of success and throughout high school and most of college he simply "got by" on the academic side.

"Then I tore my knee up my senior year in college. I was thinking if I can’t walk, I can’t run and I can’t play. I had plenty of time on my hands, and I started spending more time in my books," Jakes said. "I decided I wanted to be a business man … gaining that knowledge also helped me be a better football player."

Although he made good money as an NFL player, Jakes realized that he couldn’t afford to live a drastically more expensive lifestyle. Being sidelined by a knee injury allowed Jakes to look past his playing career and plan for the future. He said he learned to put aside at least 10 percent of his annual salary, so he would have money to start a business when he retired from football.

Today, Jakes owns three McDonald’s franchises in the Atlanta area, but even that was not a simple decision. When we was looking to start his own business, he did as much research as he could at the library, as the internet had not yet become prominent. He found out that nine out of 10 small businesses fail, but nine out of 10 franchises succeed.

He began looking at all sorts of different franchises, from oil change businesses to muffler shops to fast food restaurants, and he called as many people as he could to learn details like start up costs and profit margins

"Calling is a key. You get a lot of info, sometimes more than you ask for," he said.

He told the students the fact they were at this teen summit on a Saturday was a good indication they were on the path to success.

Lanae King, president of WSCC’s youth group The Young Legends, said she has already formed her own small typing business, where she will convert students’ essays or her grandmothers’ books into a typed copy. She also recently learned how to make an e-book.

Trust and the Importance of School

Sorority sisters also led the teens through an exercise where they described their ideas of success in pictorial form. Common symbols of success were houses, expensive cars and money as well as family, religion and education.

The students were then asked what could prevent them from achieving these goals. Students said families aren’t possible without a partner. Relationships can’t be formed without honesty and trust, which can be damaged by gossip, the students worked out.

They also talked about whom they go to for advice, family members or friends, and whether those people offer good advice. The teens decided they don’t go to their parents for everything, and that sometimes their friends can give bad advice.

Akeem Washington, a recent graduate of Alcovy High School, was confronted on his stance that he doesn’t trust anyone. He said he’s been betrayed in the past, so he’s learned to make many acquaintances, but no close friends. The group discussed levels of friendship and trust, and after the discussion Washington said he heard what his fellow students were saying and realized he could give people a second chance.

Washington heard about the forum through a teacher and decided it could help him pursue his future. He plans to attend Fort Valley State University and major in business with the eventual goal of becoming a sports agent.

Sorority member Franklin said the group is planning to hold an Economic Smart Fair Aug. 28 on the square where hundreds of teen entrepreneurs could come and sell their products or services and get to keep any profits for themselves.