The third Annual Youth Economic Development Conference & Expo brought together over 300 teens from the South Florida area with local educators, business leaders, state and district representatives, industry professionals and successful youth entrepreneurs. The three-day conference and expo took place at Miami Dade College North Campus, located at 11380 NW 27th Ave. in Miami and the Miami Dade Public Library at 101 W. Flagler St., in Downtown Miami.

The conference commenced with Mistress of Ceremony Rebecca “Butterfly” Vaughns, who ignited the crowd with moving spoken words that reminded youth to keep striving to reach their goals and fullest potential. Florida State Sen. Dwight Bullard shared a resonating quote from his mentor Thurgood Marshall: "You are either a social architect or a social parasite."

Clarence Woods, executive director, of the Southeast Overtown/Park West Community Redevelopment Agency, urged youth in attendance to follow their passion and noted that, “Progress is not the destination but found in the journey.”

Keynote speaker, and youth entrepreneur Jaylen Bledsoe of St. Louis, MO, spoke on knowing your value, and gave some encouraging words.

“Don’t let your setback cause you to sit back; prepare for your comeback,” he said.

A highlight of Day 1 included a Youth Town Hall meeting moderated by Jim DeFede of CBS 4 and Urgent intern, Jaciann Holgate. Panelists included, William Aristide, Booker T. Washington High School principal; Diana Ragbeer, director of Public Policy and Communications, The Children's Trust; Carolina Espinal, Miami-Dade County Youth Commissioner District 13; Shaunteria Guerrier, Miami Dade County Youth Commissioner District 10, and Florida State Rep. Cynthia Stafford. Youth Led Expo sessions on Coding, Journalism, and Radio along with industry professionals, led sessions on Hospitality Travel & Tourism, Entrepreneurship and Film.

Special events included the Youth Business Marketplace and the Youth Entrepreneur Panel with special guests Elijah Wells (Elijah Wells Films), Saliha Crespo (Sally Film Talent Agency), Shonee Randolf (Lemon Licks'), Zoe Terry (Zoe's Dolls), Sebastian & Brandon Martinez (Are You Kidding). Young entrepreneurs discussed their personal journey of turning their individual passions into successful businesses. One of those speakers was 10-year-old Zoe, who created a socially conscious doll company because she wanted every little girl of color to know that “they are beautiful no matter what anyone says.”

FACE alumni Elijah Wells, of Elijah Wells Films, spoke about cementing his presence on the local film scene over the years and how that has allowed him to work with the likes of Tyler Perry, Omari Hardwick and Robert Townsend.

Day two (2) concluded with Urban Philanthropies sponsored Business Pitch both moderated by Jill Tracey of Hot 105 FM. Judges included Keon Williams, Urban Philanthropies, Eric Knowles, Miami Dade Chamber of Commerce, Orlando Espinosa, Miami Dade SCORE, and Stephanie Sylvestre, with The Children’s Trust. Lamyra Thompson won $400 for her business Trippy Tees and runner up Remy Wilson was awarded $100 to start his custom shoe art design business, Cubic Script.

The three-day conference and expo culminated with the Miami 4 Social Change Youth Film Festival held at the Main Library. The festival accepted short video submissions from around the country that featured youth as key agents for social change by addressing issues that they care about. The winners of the short film contest were Fredric Garcon with, “Home,” and Janet Swaby for “911 Gun Violence.”

URGENT Inc. is a 501 (c) (3) Miami-based youth and community development organization dedicated to empowering young minds to transform their communities. Guided by the principles of innovation, growth and transformation, URGENT sees young people as the drivers of change and works to provide empowering opportunities to create the next generation of social change agents. For more information, visitwww.urgentinc.org.

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