Nine years ago, Destiny Watson was a high school student starting a service club. On Sept. 14, she was recognized as the Entrepreneur of the Year by Chamber 57 for building that club into a thriving nonprofit youth leadership organization, You Matter 2.
She received a standing ovation as she approached the podium to be honored for her work.
Chamber 57 Board President Percy Scott introduced Watson as an inspirational leader in the South Suburbs. He cited the organization’s most visible project, the Homewood-Flossmoor Juneteenth Festival, the largest Juneteenth celebration in the South Suburbs.
He also noted a personal connection to the organization. In April, You Matter 2 took 25 high school students on a five-state tour of eight college campuses as part of its Discover U program. Scott’s son, a sophmore at Homewood-Flossmoor High School who dreams of attending Ohio State University, was among them, and Scott said the journey made a positive impact.
“I’m truly thankful to Destiny and her organization for making his dream a reality,” he said.
In remarks after accepting the award, Watson said the organization seeks to create opportunities for area youth to discover their paths in life.
“Our mission is to foster leadership and personal development in south suburban youth, build pathways to experience, strengthen community ties and celebrate cultural heritage,” she said.
She thanked Chamber 57 for the honor and her mother and step-father, Tamika and Christopher Britten, for their support, especially opening their home to meetings of 30 teenagers during You Matter 2’s early days.
She also gave special credit to her father, Lawrence Watson, and cited him as a source and inspiration of her entrepreneurial spirit.
“My father was an entrepreneur who owned his own trucking company before passing away when I was 5 years old as a result of police brutality,” she said. “His life and legacy continue to be a significant influence on my work today.”
She said You Matter 2 had awarded $12,000 to graduating seniors as part of the Lawrence Watson Memorial Scholarship program.
She also credited another key person in her development as a leader, NBA legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson, who was so impressed with her story at the 2015 WE Day event in Chicago that his foundation offered to pay for her college education.
That encounter “changed my trajectory,” she said. “It motivated me to think about how I could do more for my community and how much it was needed.”
She said her organization’s next big initiative is to establish a teen community center that will serve youth in the South Suburbs.
Others recognized included:
- Cook County Board of Commissioners President Toni Preckwinkle, Elected Officials of the Year (represented by Al Kindle)
- Life Church Senior Pastor Isaac Greene, Spiritual Leader of the Year.
- ComEd External Affairs Manager Bonita Estelle, Corporate Partner of the Year.
- RPINC Consulants President Randall Poindexter, Board Member of the Year.
- Shon and Michiel Burnett, Chamber Members of the Year.