APALACHIN, NY (WIVT/WBGH) – Students at the BOCES West Learning Center in Apalachin got to interact with a number of African-American small business owners this week.

The school held an expo with black-owned businesses in recognition of the upcoming Juneteenth holiday.

Throughout the morning on Tuesday, students got to interact with a professional artist, candle maker, thrift shop owner, juice maker and others.

One of the participants, Marieniva Eugene is a former counselor at the West Learning Center.

Last fall, she started her own business offering individual and family therapy and multicultural counseling.

Eugene says she’s one of few people of color offering counseling in our area.

She says it’s important for all of the students to get to meet Black business owners.

“With education comes understanding. That helps build kindness and empathy. This is why it’s important for everybody to learn about Juneteenth and not just students of color,” she said.

Students got to check out artwork created by Kristen Nicole Mann, the artist responsible for the giant Black Lives Matter street mural in downtown Binghamton.