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2018 Construction Opportunity Fair

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 Early on Friday, March 23rd, we went to the H.J. Weber Company on West 25th Street to attend the "2018 Construction Opportunity Fair" put on by the "The Great Lakes Construction Company" and the Northeast Ohio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce".

As was written in the press release (see http://www.clevelandnp.org/event/hispanic-chamber-construction-opportunity-fair/) regarding this exercise dated March 6, 2018, the purpose of this event was to "bring together developers, prime/general contractors, assistance groups, bonding agents, owners and financial institutions in an effort to increase diversity and inclusion on construction projects."

Accordingly, there were at least 20 vendor tables set up so that those involved could network and receive advise/assistance from each other. There was also a program moderated by Ms. Jenice Contreras, Executive Director of the Hispanic Chamber, wherein various heads of various organizations/companies got to talk about the ventures that they were involved with and the opportunities that these ventures would create for others besides themselves.

The before-mentioned press release also contained the following paragraph:

"Construction firms are not only met with diversity and inclusion requirements on public contracts but increasingly face equivalent requirements when procuring private sector contracts. This means the industry has begun to shift towards a place that will significantly impact diverse firms fighting for inclusion. Although contractors have incrementally moved forward in the right direction, there is ample room for improvement. The Construction Opportunity Fair is a keystone platform coalescing and catalyzing direct dialog on diversity and inclusion in Northeast Ohios construction industry."

After the Construction Opportunity Fair, we traveled to the City Club of Cleveland where we attended a very inspirational program that featured Dr. Tererai Trent, Ph.D. as the guest speaker. She is the author of the book, "The Awakened Woman: Remembering & Reigniting our Sacred Dream" which won the 2018 NAACP Image Award for Instructional Literature.

At this event, we shared a table with Ms. Rufaro Zakeo who, like Dr. Trent, is from Zimbabwe. She told us of how she first came to the United States as an international student in 2000 and now has a prominent position with PNC Bank. In 2017, Ms. Zakeo became a U.S. citizen and she was very much looking forward to hearing what Dr. Trent had to say because she very much admired her.

Indeed, as the program notes that we received read, Dr. Trent is recognized as "one of the most internationally recognized voices for quality education and women's empowerment" and, after listening to her, we think she very much deserves this designation.

Dr. Trent told shared with us her early years in  rural Zimbabwe where, by custom, she was married at age 11 and had three children by the time she was 18.  In 1991, Ms. Jo Luck came to her village as an aid worker with "Heifer International" which, as described in Wikipedia, is "a global non-profit working to eradicate poverty through sustainable, values-based holistic community development." (see https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heifer_International)

Ms. Luck got to know her and was told that the dream of this young woman (who was now standing on the City Club stage as Dr. Trent) was to travel to the United States, attend college, and ultimately earn a Ph.D.  Ms. Luck a good friend of Dr. Trent) told her if she really wanted to do this then she should go for it because it was entirely possible and, likewise, the young woman's mother was equally supportive; in fact, she said that if she could accomplish this then she would set a new standard for the local women

Dr. Trent spoke of how she first earned a G.E.D. and then traveled to the United States in 1998 with her then five children where she earned a Bachelor's degree in in 2001 and from there went on to earn an Master's in 2003 and, finally, a Doctorate in 2009. Her remarkable ascension drew a lot of attention and in 2011 Ms. Oprah Winfrey named Dr. Trent her all "All-Time Favorite Guest" and donated $1.5 million towards the advancement of education in Zimbabwe. As a result, 11 new schools were built that are attended by scores of young people each day.

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The viewpoint that Dr. Trent wanted to impress upon us was that the empowerment of women is vital to the international community because they are "game-changers" and have so much to offer. What's more, she believed that we all have a collective responsibility to assist those less fortunate than ourselves because this will pay off beautifully for all concerned.

During the Q and A, a person put forth his/her observation that people who immigrate to this country seem more inclined to take advantage of its opportunities more than those who are native born. Dr. Trent replied that she "could write a book" along these lines but expressed compassion for the "native born" and urged us not to fall into the trap of believing that disadvantaged sections of our society are in the position that they are in because of laziness; instead, she contended that we must study and be aware of their histories and extend constructive assistance, like mentoring, whenever possible.

Dr. Trent's relationship with Ms. Jo Luck is an example of how mentoring can help a person. Incidentally, Ms. Luck is now the CEO of "Heifer International" and she Dr. Trent remain good friends to this day.

At the end of her presentation, everyone at the City Club rose to their feet to applaud Dr. Trent and Mr. Dan Moulthrop, CEO of the City Club, said that he wanted those who were listening to this program via radio to know that what they just heard was a standing ovation.

 

Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC