By Krysten Brenlla
Jefferson Noel had three options for a career – A., Become a lawyer; B., Become a doctor, or C., Become a pastor. At least, that’s what his Haitian parents instilled in him.
He chose option D: none of the above.
Although his parents always emphasized education as a driving factor for a successful life, Noel, a professor of Communications at Florida Memorial University (FMU), never chose education. Instead, Noel dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur.
“I went to Miami Dade College for one year and dropped out,” said Noel. “I had an entrepreneur mentality of ownership and creating value, so I started a business called Noels Healthy Living – it failed after four months, but that didn’t stop me.”
After his first business endeavor, Noel worked as a valet. That’s when he realized it was time to make a change – so he packed his bags, enrolled in Valencia College, and made his way to Orlando, ultimately kick-starting his career in higher education.
“At Valencia College, I really started to enjoy class, but what I enjoyed the most was being in student leadership,” he said. “I found that to be one of the most valuable experiences from college, and it led me to meet a professor who inspired me to become who I am today.”
In 2016, after graduating with an associate degree from Valencia College, he realized the value of education – with a degree in-hand and a renewed perspective, Noel packed his bags again and made his way back home where he enrolled in Florida International University (FIU). As a student and community leader at FIU, he met his current mentors – Saif Ishoof, founder of Lab22c and former VP of FIU’s Office of Engagement, and Russell Motley, veteran journalist and professor of broadcast journalism at FMU – who helped him land jobs, meet the right community leaders, and uplift him to a place where he can help others around him today.
2016 was also the same time Noel launched his most successful endeavor – Barbershop Speaks.
Barbershop Speaks [pictured below], an initiative that sparks intelligent discussions and conversations to enlighten, educate and empower communities across Miami, is on a mission to bridge generational gaps across Miami’s minority communities. First launching in a small barbershop in North Miami Beach, Barbershop Speaks has grown into a city-wide initiative that allows opportunities for locals to engage in discussions on topics like financial literacy, political elections, criminal justice, mental health, childhood literacy, and much more, with professionals like mental health counselors, legislatures, police officers, judges, and politicians.
Most recently, Noel launched Crypto Convos through Barbershop Speaks – a way to educate communities on web 3.0, blockchain, and the future of our currency system. “Crypto Convos is an opportunity for people who may have heard about crypto, but know nothing about it, or may have invested in crypto, but don’t know what to do next, to have real and authentic conversations with professionals in blockchain and web 3.0,” Noel told Refresh Miami.
“We wanted to take these conversations that people are having on tech, blockchain and crypto and bring it to a comfortable setting, like your local barbershop, to give our Black and Brown communities the same opportunities to learn, discuss, and make their own decisions on whether they should invest in it – ultimately, that’s my goal with Barbershop Speaks.”
Sponsored by local businesses and firms, the inaugural Crypto Convos, hosted at Top Cuttaz 2 in Miami Gardens, welcomed 50 attendees who heard from leaders in #MiamiTech such as Adina Aaron, CEO of Dargent Group; Elijah Bowdre, Chairman of the Cryptocurrency Taskforce of Dade County; Ashley Caines, Web3/Blockchain Leader for Blavity; and Derek Jones, founder of United Coin. The panelists and guests discussed the significance of crypto as our future’s currency, while emphasizing the opportunities that can be found in crypto to uplift and thrive for generations to come.
Not only is Noel paving the way for minority communities to get educated on crypto and blockchain, but he is also the author of the children’s book Yes! I Believe, and founder of the “Yes! I Believe” NFT, an initiative that aims to educate our youth and teachers on web 3.0 to empower the next generation of web 3 natives. Minted in December 2021, members of “Yes! I Believe” NFT will be visiting local elementary, middle, and high schools across Miami, as well as community groups and mentorship programs, to educate students on crypto and blockchain. Holders of a Believer NFT will receive access to exclusive, kid friendly Web3 educational content; access to virtual and IRL events; whitelist on high quality and trusted NFT projects; and profits from licensing fees if an owner’s NFT is used in commerce.
As a professor at FMU, South Florida’s only Historically Black College & University (HBCU), Noel always starts his classes with the “why.”
“I always tell my students, as well as young kids that I meet, to start from an orientation of purpose and meaning, and from there, you can make your own decisions,” said Noel.
“They need to know their own worth and value, and walk with confidence, because they have something they can offer the world.”
Jefferson Noel is a 3x published author, communicator, professor, and community leader. His published works include GO: How to Cross the Starting Line; Powerful Presenting: How to Overcome One of the Nation’s Greatest Fears; and Yes! I Believe. For more information on Barbershop Speaks or Yes! I Believe NFT, visit barbershopsps.com and yesibelievenft.com.
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