On Walking and Flying: Why Summit Academy OIC Matters

By Kehinde Winful, Community Outreach Intern

“The best social service program in the world is a job,” a packed room of about fifty people, including myself, echoed back to President and CEO, Louis J. King II, of Summit Academy OIC in Minneapolis.

As a nonprofit organization Summit Academy empowers poor Twin Cities residents to become self-reliant and employed members of their community.[1] Summit Academy offers both GED classes and career training in the healthcare and construction fields. They not only help students get their GED but, in either a 20 or 30 week training program, help prepare them for all aspects of the career life including: career services, money management, and emotional competency.

Upon walking the halls of the school with LaKisha Jones, Summit Academy's Program Coordinator, I saw empowerment personified. The walls, classroom doors, faculty doors, and lockers were covered with affirmations including: “you are kind” and “your enthusiasm is appreciated.” Two of my personal favorites.

As I walked through the halls I saw what resilience looks like at every stage of life. From seeing students in the classrooms, students of past and present pictured on the walls, and pamphlets of success stories, I thought about the importance of second chances, and thirds, and fourths. To me, the power of organizations like Summit Academy is that they keep hope alive.

Before the informational session started, a video of all the skills taught at Summit Academy (which is very impressive) played in the background. When one student in the video spoke about carpentering, I heard a middle-aged woman say to her friend, “Look, I can learn to be a carpenter. I can build my own house. After that, all I need is some land.” Her friend smiled back, “Yes, all you’ll need is some land.” That was my first glimpse of what a program like Summit Academy OIC can do for people. It empowers people to see what they can do for themselves.

At my Alma Mater, the motto was, “Preparing people to lead extraordinary lives.” In hearing President Louis J. King II speak I saw that motto exemplified. Mr. King spoke about what it takes to get started and to make the changes one needs to make to get their GED or career training to better themselves. He spoke about how often times we must leave places and people who make us comfortable in pursuit of our better selves. He however, made the distinction between “better selves” and being “good people” saying, “you are not bad people, but somewhere along the way you were lied too, someone told you that you didn’t need to finish school-- but no matter where you come from you have me now.”

To me, an extraordinary life is one where hope is always on the horizon. While my journey is different than the prospective students of Summit Academy, as an observer in that informational session, I had a feeling that I am sure many prospective students have had: I could do anything. I am reminded of one of the other quotes I saw around the school building, “I can and I will.”

In that room there was a sense of hope that transcended race, age, and gender. I feel that at Summit Academy there is a place for every kind of person. This is especially true because they are always looking for volunteers, and they have a variety of volunteer opportunities available including but not limited to: instructional tutoring (in language arts, reading comprehension, math, writing and GED test-prep), test proctoring, administrative/reception help, and guest speaking.

As I reflect on the informational session I think about one of the parts that impacted me the most, Mr. King said, “Show up every day, if you can’t walk--fly.”


Interested in learning how to get involved with Summit Academy OIC? Contact LaKisha Jones: LJones@saoic.org.

[1] Summit Academy OIC: Training for life , https://www.saoic.org/about/leadership/president/

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