Moves being made by today’s college and college bound students are not only rapid and matter of fact, but their acquisition of information has to be just as fast-paced and straightforward as their moves. In other words, talk fast and with clarity because they are not in the business of listening slow. Taking into account the changing pace in information gathering of “Generation Y” aka the “I Want It Now” generation is Dwayne Ashley, the Chief Executive Officer and President of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and author of Dream Internships! It’s Not Who You Know … It’s What You Know.
Dewayne Ashley is a graduate of Texas’ oldest Historically Black College, Wiley College and has first hand knowledge of the yawning divide between the leaders and the follower. “I keep my ear to the street, if you will, and understand the importance of staying connected to young people.” says Ashley when speaking about how he reaches out to the right now generation. He goes on to say, “In order to keep their attention, the tools needed to be bold and work against the novelty that is instant gratification is the way to go. The overnight successes that flood the imaginations of our young people are few and far and in-between.”
Ballerstatus.com spoke with Dwayne Ashley about his new handbook, Dream Internships!, and how the Thurgood Marshall College Fund helps black college students get to the next step on the ladder of life.
BallerStatus.com: Explain the impact you want Dream Internships! to have on students interested in heading to college and those currently attending college?
Dwayne Ashley: Knowing the world needs the skills and talents of today’s young people is one thing. But equipping young people with the knowledge of how the world receives new talent is what was kept in mind when I wrote this handbook. Arming our constituencies with this information and the tools to execute is what makes the impact when they go out and showcase their skills to the world.
BallerStatus.com: The young people you’re speaking to the book have been told, have heard, or have witnessed more of the notion of “It’s Who You Know” rather than “It’s What You Know” most of their lives. How do you contradict that old adage with this book?
Dwayne Ashley: To say that old adage doesn’t have some validity would be wrong. The truth of the matter is this: students from historically black colleges and traditionally white institutions lack the social preparation necessary to navigate their way through the areas of business they want to be employed with. That in itself contradicts that notion and makes a handbook like Dream Internships! a necessity.
BallerStatus.com: Did you write this handbook for college students only?
Dwayne Ashley: No, this is for college bound high school students as well. It gives them a head start on what’s to come once they get to college and how to plan ahead for their careers.
BallerStatus.com: How do students go about qualifying for the Thurgood Marshall College fund?
Dwayne Ashley: There is more information on our website, but some of the qualifications include attending a public HBCU (Historically Black College University), commitment to academic excellence and community service, and maintain a GPA of 3.0.
BallerStatus.com: Now you are aware that your target readership is on the move and are not always big fans of the “how to” manual?
Dwayne Ashley: I understand that completely, that is why Dream Internships! is a short read (laughing). As you can see it’s only eighty pages and the information is direct and to the point.
BallerStatus.com: What is the overall mission you had in mind when writing this book?
Dwayne Ashley: I want to increase the passion to excel in young people, give them an understanding that it is better to find solutions rather than give excuses.
BallerStatus.com: In the book you give some examples of what people experienced seeking out and landing internships, are those true stories or are they hypothetical examples?
Dwayne Ashley: No those are actual experiences students enrolled in our programs have experienced.
BallerStatus.com: How does the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, encourage college bound students to attend HBCU(s)? It is believed, in many circles, their credits will not transfer with them should they go onto another institution during their fours or grad school?
Dwayne Ashley: We encourage young people with our scholarship program, our Leadership Institute and the various resources we have available. We have resources that not only help the students, but their parents as well. I don’t know where the notion came from that credits from HBCU(s) are not transferable. I know some of the smaller colleges/universities — both HBCU(s) and other public colleges/universities around the country — don’t have national recognition, but that is only because they don’t have the marketing resources/finances to make their schools more visible. All of the Historically Black Colleges are accredited, with the exception of some of the newer programs waiting for accreditation all credits are transferable.
BallerStatus.com: What percent of students coming through the Leadership Institute graduate from college?
Dwayne Ashley: Ninety-eight of our students graduate.
BallerStatus.com: Preparing young people for the work force is different from how it used to be. The goal of being entrepreneur is a far more popular than being an employee. How do you get them to understand even with a desire to own their “own,” there are rules that have to be followed?
Dwayne Ashley: My staff and I communicate with our young people in the language they use. It gives us the opportunity to offset the traditional stogy approach to corporate America and entrepreneurship. Being able to speak their language, helps them understand they can still be themselves while playing by the rules.
BallerStatus.com: Many people in your position try to reach young people, but they just don’t get it. Who is Dwayne Ashley outside of the office? How do you bring him into the work you do?
Dwayne Ashley: On a personal level, I am able to relate to our young people because I really enjoy a lot of the same things they enjoy. I enjoyed watching the Keyshia Cole show and I enjoy a lot of the same music they enjoy. I made sure I got my hands on tickets to the Heart of the City tour with Jay-Z and Mary J. Blige. I know there is a gap between the generations, but I am apart of the both and young people respect that authenticity.
BallerStatus.com: Where can people find this book?
Dwayne Ashley: The book can be found in all the major book stores and their websites, on the Thurgood Marshall College Fund website, and sites like Amazon.com.
BallerStatus.com: Do you have some closing and encouraging words for the young people reading this interview?
Dwayne Ashley: Yes, in everything you do, protect your image and always manage your brand. You are your brand and when sharing your image and personal information on social networking sites, you have to be careful. Lastly, don’t stop searching for knowledge and climbing for levels of excellence, these things will not come looking for you.
For more information about Dwayne Ashley and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, visit .