Giving truth to Memphis youth
By Breyanah Graham (Ridgeway High School)
Due to the perceived rise in youth violence in Memphis, the city is currently looking for ways to combat it. One phase of the city’s plan to battle youth violence, MPLOY Youth Summer Experience, has already been unveiled and is in the process of giving Memphis teenagers and young adults something constructive to do during the summer.
Right now, students say they want to spend the summer working, but it’s hard for them to find a job.
“It’s not like I haven’t been looking for jobs,” Destiny Williamson, 16, said. “I put in applications everywhere I could. I applied for Chick-Fil-A, the mall, the movie theater, and even McDonalds for a summer job, but I never get called back. It’s hard to find jobs with so many people trying to get employed for the summer, especially for young teens.”
The city of Memphis hopes a $2 million summer jobs program will help change this by giving 1,000 Memphis teenagers and young adults the chance to find work.
MPLOY Youth Summer Experience is not a new initiative to Memphis, however. In the past, MPLOY Youth Summer Experience had been a program that was sporadic, employing thousands of the city’s youth for the summer. That stopped several years ago with the program’s collapse in 2009. This year the city has returned the program with the goal to sustain it and extend it beyond its former glory. So far, this program has proven to be promising for the city’s youth.
The Office of Youth Services documented that they received more than 8,000 applications for the MPLOY Youth Summer Experience. Unfortunately, the program can currently only serve 1,000 young people, and many teens and young adults were turned away. Nonetheless, for the chosen 1,000 the MPLOY program will be something to look forward to for the summer and, hopefully, next year’s number of accepted applicants could be increased if the program continues.
Participants for this program were chosen through a random computer-based lottery process with a certain number of slots from each of the seven Memphis City Council districts. After being chosen, a range of different jobs will be available for the chosen participants based on their strengths and interests in a range of several fields such as healthcare, banking, the arts and retail. Participants will be able to work in big companies around Memphis such as Bass Pro Shops, Hattiloo Theatre and Kroger, and are expected to make between $8 and $11 an hour while working in the six-week program.
Certainly here the money matters, but the MPLOY Youth Summer Experience is expected to be more than just a two-month paycheck. In addition to providing employment, another goal of MPLOY Youth Summer Experience is to target and develop “soft skills” among the participants. Soft skills include things such as career planning skills, creating a resume, going on interviews, and workplace etiquette which are deemed as necessary skills to joining today’s workforce.
Angela Brandon, a parent of a MPLOY applicant said, “This seems like a good positive and enriching activity for teens for the summer. It’s a good way to give teens work experience and a jump start by giving them skills that will help them later in life.”
Despite some of the negative images portrayed about young teens here, the oversubscription of the MPLOY program highlights that teens and young people in Memphis want to make something of themselves and better the city.