When I joined Mayor’s Stimpson’s administration, the vision was very clear: we will become the safest most business and family friendly city in America by 2020. It is up to each staff member to ensure that vision is a concrete reality. Well, business is booming. Capital improvement is happening all over the City and we have put measures in place in our court systems to stop punishing poverty.
What about our young people?
Their voice was missing but not their actions. In 2016, we saw a spike in violent youth crime. Why? We asked young people from ages 14 to 24, and they all had the same response; we need activities and we want to work. In October 2016, we created the Youth Empowered for Success (YES) Initiative. Through this initiative, we wanted to provide our young people not only what young people wanted, but by also looking at data to see what they needed to learn, grow and thrive including safety, economic security and outreach through education and mentoring. In order for our youth to be empowered, we as a City wanted our youth to constantly be reminded of our initiative’s core values: love, hope, respect, protection, opportunity, resources and most importantly fun.
How are we ensuring success?
Our recreation staff has been diligently working to ensure activities are in our community centers for the young and the young at heart. We have created an interdepartmental initiative where our fire and law enforcement recruits are engaged with the community as a part of their training. Once training is complete, every recruit will have already established relationships with the community they will serve prior to receiving their badge. We are consistently monitoring positive and challenging youth activity, and are looking at strategies to remove barriers and increase access to evidenced based approaches and best practices. You will begin to see YES Zones all over our City that ensure safe and youth friendly spaces and places. Our professional athletes are stepping up and providing summer camps that provide rigor to the body and mind. We are actively seeking over $3 million in grant funding to build the capacity of young people in our community.
Job growth in Mobile is increasing, and we want youth to be a huge part of the City’s workforce. Through the YES Initiative, we are providing opportunities for evidenced based job skill training and creating awareness that our youth are ready to work. We made funding available for businesses to hire two or more youth this summer. We have assisted the Mobile County Public Schools and the Mobile Housing Board in securing additional businesses to work with their summer job internship programs. We have also partnered with the City of Gulf Shores and Baldwin County hospitality companies to provide jobs for our youth in Gulf Shores. Not only are we assisting businesses and organizations with hiring young people, we are hiring more than 90 youth in our City departments as well.
Do kids really want a job?
Well, the City received more than 4,000 applications this summer! 4,000 reasons to say our youth want opportunities. Our youth want to be productive. 4,000 reasons why you should invest your time, talent and energy into their current potential and future possibilities.
So how can you say YES?
Hire a young person this summer. Ask the managers where you spend your dollars how they are investing in youth. Empowerment begins the moment you decide to take the first step and turn a vision into a reality. Use your power of one to continue the momentum of change. Say YES to the vision of ensuring success for our youth.