Read the first post in this series: Opportunity Youth in Memphis
Last year, our Fund Students First coalition requested that the City of Memphis allocate at least $10 million for an education fund that would invest in both in-school and out-of-school efforts that have a direct and measurable impact on students’ academic achievement and/or career development. In addition to increased support for career technical education (CTE) programs, dropout-prevention strategies, and high-quality out-of-school learning opportunities, we asked for expansion of the MPLOY Youth Summer Experience and the Memphis Ambassadors Program initiatives. As a result, increased funding for the MPLOY summer jobs program would have offered a progressive, proactive approach to addressing economic and workforce development needs, reducing crime in our city, and reversing negative economic and population trends.
We urged city leaders to make public education and youth opportunity a high priority and to redirect funding toward strategies that have a positive effect on young people’s prospects for successful lives. Ultimately, however, our requests were unfulfilled.
The City did increase the number of MPLOY summer jobs by 250, but the total number of positions (approximately 1,250) remained dramatically smaller than the annual number of applicants (approximately 7,000), and there was no significant increase in fiscal support for young people included in the City’s 2017-2018 budget. Furthermore, Memphis remains the only municipality in Shelby County that does not contribute additional funding to public education.
Contrast this neglect with the more progressive approach implemented in other cities. The Detroit Summer Youth Employment Program served 5,600 youth in its inaugural year and grew to more than 8,000 in its second year. Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s One Summer Chicago grew 125 percent over five years and now provides more than 31,000 youth employment and internship opportunities. Washington, DC’s Department of Employment Services includes an Office of Youth Programs that develops and administers a comprehensive slate of programs that provide youth with the occupational skills training, work experience, academic enrichment, and life skills training that are essential to success. The Mayor Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program alone employed nearly 11,500 young people in 2017 for more than 1.3 million total hours.
Other cities of comparable size and/or demographics are willing to commit funds and other resources to ensure that the youth in their communities have ample opportunities for future success. Many of these program expansions have included both public and private support, so we also need our Memphis businesses to make commitments to our youth. It’s time for Memphis to level up in real support for our city’s youth.
Join the movement for Memphis youth.
Read the next post in this series: Memphis Deserves More