21st Century Civil Rights Leader Speaks to Mt. Pleasant Students

21st century civil rights leader Michael Skolnik (3)

Described as a leading voice for young America, Michael Skolnik, political director to hip-hop pioneer Russell Simmons, spoke to a full audience of Mt. Pleasant High School students about succeeding and reaching their dreams.

A trailblazer of social media with more than 150,000 followers, Skolnik has led national conversations about the death of Trayvon Martin and the subsequent trial of George Zimmerman, the Boston Marathon bombings, the rise of violence in Chicago, America’s relationship with race and the Obama presidency, amongst many other topics. He regularly discusses these issues, current events and how they affect his generation on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, National Public Radio and HLN (Headline News), to name a few media outlets.

Dressed in jeans and sneakers and standing above the students’ seats, Skolnik told the audience about his youth and how he overcame challenges to succeed. Skolnik used the example of how he, as a high school football quarterback, had the courage to take ballet lessons to become a better football player.

“There were 35 girls in the class and me, but I did not care,” Skolnik said as some students chuckled. “I wanted to be with people who are better than me, who challenge me and who inspire me.”

He encouraged the students to do the same by surrounding themselves with people who inspire them to be better.

“What is your dream?” he asked them. “What do you want to do? Put it out there.”

Prior to his work for Russell Simmons, Skolnik spent more than 10 years as an award-winning film director and producer. He is a graduate of the UCLA School of Film, Theater and Television.