An experience on the road with the students of The Elevated Places

On the weekend of November 19-21, I was one of the parent escorts for students from The Elevated Places, a Muslim-owned institution located in Missouri City, Texas.

We headed to New Orleans for them to attend the Region V conference hosted by the National Society of Black Engineers. Known as the Elite 9, they were signed up to compete in the robotics competition and mathematics bowl.

The weekend started with us conducting a forum at Mc Donogh 35 College Preparatory Senior High School titled Road To Engineering Roundtable Discussion. With me serving as the moderator, the panel included Durce Muhammad (Houston), Jefferrey Muhammad (Houston) and Dwayne Bernal (New Orleans). All of us majored in engineering in college. The hosting teacher was Mrs. Bocage.

The purpose of the hour long discussion was to give students firsthand accounts of what a career in engineering is like; provide a mentoring experience to help students make the transition from desire to actuality; and to give back and service the community of Black youth.

The discussion was very productive as the panelists touched on choosing a major, salaries, interviewing skills, appearance, campus life, community involvement and the different types of engineering fields beyond chemical, mechanical, and electrical.

After the panel we headed over to the Marriott hotel to register for the conference. Bro. Jefferrey had the young boys looking sharp and crisp. They caught the attention of everyone at the conference immediately because of the discipline. That’s the way of the NOI.

After registration we enjoyed a greasy cuisine at a local Japanese restaurant. Man, grease was popping everywhere but the dude flipping the knives was pretty cool.

That night we stayed up until 2:00am testing out the robot in preparation for the competition as well as getting their PowerPoint presentation in order. I have to note that while many of these schools had been preparing for months to compete, The Elevated Places started a few weeks before. Their preparation up to that point was due mostly to the hard work of their teacher Inge Muhammad and school co-directress Wakiti Muhammad. As brothers, it was our job to help take them across the finish line while tearing up some bean pie! Yeah!

Saturday was game day.

The Elite 9 had their game faces on. Representing the math team was Sadiah, Asaad, Aishah, Amirah, and Ishmael. The robotics squad was Abdul-Aziz, Ayinde, Jabbar, and Rashad. We went through some last minute preparations and changes.

Also, I ran into my high school engineering professor Mr. Hayward and my former classmate Valencia Dutton. (Great seeing you all)

The math competition included solving problems on paper and also a bowl style portion. It was intense! Know what place they got?

The robotics team was surprised to find out that the rules of the competition were entirely different from what they had prepared for back home. I was inside with them sounding like a basketball coach as Abdul-Aziz manned the robots while his teammates helped out. It was intense as well. They accepted the challenge despite this being their first year at the conference.

Under the supervision of Bro. Durce, the robotics team slammed the PowerPoint portion of their competition and had the judges asking “How old are you all?”

It was done. They had done their best. They had impressed the judges. Now, it was a matter of what place they would receive.

We took a break from the competition by going to raise our cholesterol levels at CafĂ© Du Monde for some beignets. I think it’s humanly impossible to eat those things without looking like you’ve been break dancing in baby powder! Lol! We headed back to the hotel and Bro. Durce was able to secure a vacant room and projector for us to catch Minister Farrakhan’s message via webcast from Rockford, IL.

Then it was time for the awards ceremony.

When the dust settled….The Elevated Places won 2nd Place in the Math Competition and 1st Place in the Robotics! Congratulations to the students, staff and parents.

It’s called The Elevated Places for a reason.

P.S.—We still love you Sister Wakiti. (Inside joke)

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