At your typical high school career day, you can expect to see all five branches of the military, a few college graduates will stop by to tell their successes, and some entrepreneurs and everyday working people will share their experiences. That is great and all, but not every student wants to pursue those career paths.
Vizion 4 Change held its inaugural career day at Oak Park High School and brought along with them some of the hottest names in the entertainment industry from the city of Detroit. Vizion 4 Change is a non-profit organization that focuses on empowering youth ages 12-18 through mentorship and career building.
“I founded Vizion 4 Change earlier this year. I’ve always worked with the youth, I just wanted to put a title behind it,” said Desmond “Kid Clever” Lester, founder of Vizion 4 Change and Oak Pak class of 2004 graduate. “I like to mentor and sew into the kids, because leading by example and having people around you that have been there before is important.”
Lester said when he attended Oak Park High School, they did not have careers days that truly grabbed the students’ attention and sparked their interest. The entertainment business in Detroit is ever popular, and as someone who owns a entertainment company himself, Lester invited some of his friends in the business to share resources, take photos, and network with future professionals.
The career day featured the likes of Empire Records A&R J-Dee, budding comedy rapper Gmac Cash, music producer Antt Beatz, and authors Justin Gordon and Lee Johnson, among others.
“It’s important for the kids to see people that are from their neighborhoods and are just like them making it,” added Lester. “I’m not in a suit. I’m here talking to these kids in a jean shirt and Jordans. The same clothes they wear, we wear, and we just want to meet the kids where they are in life and be relatable.”
J-Dee, whose real name is Joel Simpson, has an impressive resume, managing the likes of Deelishis, K. Michelle, Dusty McFly, Dej Loaf, Tee Grizzley, and many others. He took time out of his business schedule to share his story of selling drugs at the age of 12, seeing his mother on drugs, and throwing a promising basketball and football career at Detroit Southwestern away, to overcoming all of that to get where he is now in life.
“I feel it was necessary that I be here,” Simpson said on speaking at the career day. “These kids are what they see and as I continue to grow, I have to feed into them, letting them know that you don’t have to be a rapper or basketball player. There are a lot jobs behinds the scenes that make great money and you can make a great impact. I just wanted to come back and give them some game that I didn’t get.”
As the Oak Park students filed into the school’s media center, a number of them saw Antt Beatz, and their eyes lit up. He has produced for some of the top rappers in Detroit, including Tee Grizzley, Icewear Vezzo, 42 Dugg, Peezy, Eminem, and many others. He even allowed some Oak Park students to rap for him and exchanged contact information
“I’m a night-time person and I just left the studio at 6 a.m., but I wanted to come here and provide some inspiration,” said Antt Beatz, who started rapping at age 9 and made his first beat at age 12. “I had people that were close to me who didn’t believe in my vision and what I wanted to do. I wanted to let the kids know that you have to believe in yourself and if you have something that you want to do, follow through with it.”
Gmac Cash has been all over the internet and the news for his parody videos where he has rapped about eating Popeyes Chicken, needing an EBT card at Walmart, bills, asking for gas money, the snow in Detroit, and other relatable topics. The 26-year-old has become an internet and YouTube sensation, but also wanted to share his story for the first time of being fired from Chrysler for a music video he recorded and how that event pushed him to pursue his craft more.
“I never had the opportunity to reach out to the kids and I always wanted to,” said Gmac Cash, who is performing at a safety rally at Detroit King High School Friday. “The youth support me more than anybody and I wanted to give back to them. I wanted to let them know that they can do anything they want and that they do not have to follow the image of anyone else. They can create their own lane and be themselves.”
Lester has been giving back to the community for over five years. In January, he teamed up with DTLR Villa, Timberland, and STAPLE where Oak Park students served as brand ambassadors for a national campaign. Lester said he wants to the Vizion 4 Change Celebrity Career Day to tour other high schools in the future.