Who “Cares” about youth employment and education in Chicago? City Hall and a non-profit

Somewhere between Chicago City Hall and a non-profit on the city’s near west side, a forward-thinking idea was born and 50 youth are reaping its rewards.
One Summer Chicago youth jobs program matched 32,000 opportunities with teens and young adults at 2,000 work sites. Mayor Rahm Emanuel says the program is designed to help Chicago’s youth gain experience, mentors and resume strength “for future success.”
He is right.
At the Center For Companies That Care (CTC) work site, 50 youth ages 16 – 21, are learning how to become event planners during a six-week program that pays them to learn the new theory and skills. Through a rigorous and creative curricula that includes daily debriefs, and weekly presentations from different community and corporate speakers, the youth participants gain keen insight on how to plan a large event at Chicago’s Grant Park in 2019.
Marci Koblenz is the founder of CTC, a decade-old nonprofit that partners with companies, schools and now the city of Chicago, to help economically disadvantaged students enter and graduate from college. There is more to CTC that connects to its mission, values and goals. See https://www.companies-that-care.org.
Koblenz had the light bulb moment to start the non-profit when she realized the biggest difference between her upbringing in Ohio and the urban youth of Chicago was their respective zip codes.
“In my zip code … we were expected to go to college and we did,” Koblenz told an audience of high school awardees and high school graduates of her program who were being honored for being accepted to various Midwest and Southern colleges and universities.
“I want you to take off something before you go to college and its the weight that drags you down. That weight that says to you, ‘I am not going to graduate from college,” Koblenz said.
That is why Koblenz, her small staff and working board of directors are motivated to help Chicago’s youth. It is because they know that many of the high schoolers enrolled in the few slots available for pre-college preparedness, would not have a shot at scholarships, internships and mentorships if it were not for CTC.
The summer youth employment program is a first for CTC and a “perfect fit” from Koblenz’s vantage point. It gives the youth a directional path in the vast events management field while paying them to learn the skills needed to plan and execute large public activities like the “5K March to College 2019.” With some 30,000 youth from Chicago high schools and other special guests expected, the CTC annual (except for 2018) March to College event for 2019 is well on its way. The planning portion is what the students have been working on during the program that ends in early August 2018.
I met the students in week four.
Like other pro bono speakers, I shared my niche expertise in event management as I put them through the paces in in a revamped warehouse-like conference room of CTC. As the Community Relations Director for the organizing committee of the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, and volunteer manager in the NFL’s Super Bowls in Atlanta and President Bill Clinton’s second inaguration, I also brought along ‘show and tell’ items that included an extra Olympic gold medal. (Olympic organizers have to produce multiple first, second and third place medals for athletes in case there is a tie. The so-called overstock is either sold for a modest fee or offered as a freebie to the Olympics organizers).
During my hours-long time on West Van Buren Street in the large room with walls of brick and interactive white boards, I was became impressed with the students’ role playing through two mock press conferences and problem-solving through case studies from the Olympic Games.
The students who are motivated to consider careers in special events planning, management and production, are ready to do so. They caught on quickly as they were learning events operations, marketing, sales, communication, risk management and many more areas.
Hint, hint to the thousands of event supervisors across the nation and world: You have a wonderful group to select from in this cohort of CTC summer youth trained and future event leaders.

(Photograph, clockwise from top: Center For Companies That Care Board Chairman Darrin Greene and his high school mentee at Applus Technologies, Inc., where Greene is the CEO and Country Manager US; Summer Youth program participants during mock press conference; Marci Konlenz. CTC founder. Greene and his mentees brother and mother. I chose to omit names as permission was only provided by Mom for photo usage)

Ann L. Wead Kimbrough is an accomplished educator, award-winning financial journalist, author, special events leader, mentor and prolific contributor to select global and domestic non-profit causes. Her blog topics include travel, history, humor, education, career, family, journalism and ‘thought you should know’ subjects. https://www.linkedin.com/in/annlineve

Open letter to parents, advisors and ‘first time in college’ students: Your career begins with your college choice

Begin with the end in mind.
Who wishes for her/his prospective college or university student to enroll in academic programs that produce results on the road to nowhere? I don’t. That is why I have spent a few decades helping to educate parents, academic advisors and on-their-own students about thinking through their decisions on which colleges and universities are a match for the students’ overall goals and objectives.
There are also economic reasons why it is important to get it right. The sad statistics about the college drop outs remains at an alarming high. https://www.forbes.com/sites/frederickhess/2018/06/06/the-college-dropout-problem/#2d73a60a5fd2

If financial aid loans are involved in the drop outs’ matriculation, repayment is a problem and that adds up on the default rate of loans. Ask CEOs like Ce Cole Dillon whose company, Student Loan 411, is helping countless numbers of ex-college students to wade out of their debt. https://vimeo.com/258723383

My focus in this blog is on the importance of ‘looking before leaping’ to achieve ‘happily ever after’ results.
Why you should care what happens after college graduation
Going to college is no longer a cheap buy: The average 2017-18 price tag was $25,290 for public and $50,900 for private higher education institutions, according to the College Board. https://www.collegedata.com/cs/content/content_payarticle_tmpl.jhtml?articleId=10064

With that annual figure growing each year, an increasing number of parental and foundation funders are asking the ROI or return on investment questions about universities and colleges’ tuition, housing and food expenses.
As one who believes in the value and lasting benefits of attaining a well-rounded higher education degree and socialization, I sought the same questions when my children were preparing to attend college. I also learned that my recommendations were not always in line with what my children wanted to achieve. My bottom line is and remains: What will a college and university do to enhance one’s career opportunities?

1. Despite the pressure of parents and others for a student to become a “legacy” college entrant, if that student is unsure about her/his academic interests and career goals, consider a two-year program at a community college. It is a cheaper buy. While I served as a dean at a university in Florida, I actively recruited and welcomed students who wished to transfer into our bachelor’s degrees’ programs. Graduation and other success rates at four-year institutions by associate degree graduates is impressive. https://thesubtimes.com/2018/05/25/community-and-technical-college-transfer-students-shine-at-universities/

2. It’s okay to choose a four-year program. It’s even smarter to graduate in four years. I chose a historically black college in Atlanta, Clark College (now Clark Atlanta University). Many in my family chose larger, majority institutions. We all meet at the finish line as my siblings and cousins, aunts, uncles and parents graduated and are happily engaged in various careers. Please make sure that the program’s results match the preparation expectations of the students and hopefully, her/his supporters.

3. Asking for the right data and getting answers to queries involving curricula vis a vis careers, are vital components in the degree selection process. I always make myself available for parents and students and others to ask questions of me about academic programs, career choices and graduate school. At a recent gathering of prospective graduate students of the Medill School of Journalism, a family member pulled me out of a small circle and quizzed me on whether the “expensive cost of attending this school is worth it.” I responded with a resounding “yes” with my story combined with career placement data that I could recall. I also matched him with our websites and included the names of famous alums who would aid in his pursuit of one of the most legitimate queries. Note that most public universities are required to report similar data. Also, accreditation agencies of university and college degree programs are also requiring graduation, matriculation rates, and career placement rates. Some academics “hate” the phrase “placement rates” yet will answer your queries another way.

4. Check the walls — the virtual and on-site. In most specialized programs, there are regular postings about career and internship preparation, announcements about alumni visiting campus, career and graduate school recruitment visits and more. Do this during the academic school year because the summer months and holidays may not yield as much content.

5. Email, text and call alumni to ask about their career choices and how your desired university or college program helped those alums along the career paths. In the majority of situations involving prospective students, alumni LOVE talking about their college days.

6. Talk to employers about the post-graduation and entry-level preparation and expectations of college and university graduates. https://er.educause.edu/articles/2017/10/the-role-of-higher-education-in-the-changing-world-of-work

7. Read the ‘fine print’ that is right before each of on a daily basis. Listen and read and learn from the general and specialized media stories, marketplace trends and global developments regarding career choices for the college bound or university enrolled student. When I arrived for my first day of work as a dean of journalism and graphic communication, I was provided with a “gift” from our mass media funders. They wrote a collective letter to university presidents, provosts and deans to inform us that they would no longer support out-of-step programs. https://knightfoundation.org/articles/open-letter-americas-university-presidents.

Journalism funders call for ‘Teaching Hospital’ model of education

8. It’s okay to change your mind. I did. My oldest son did the same. He did chose Florida A&M University over other options that included the Georgia Institute of Technology. During the hot summer days when I was 17 years old, I debated on which university or college to attend. I was accepted to three colleges. I paid my housing deposit to Howard University. Yet, just before I booked my travel from Chicago to Washington, D.C., a Clark College (now Clark Atlanta University) alumna informed me that there was an equally strong communication program at Clark. When I placed both programs side-by-side, I chose Clark and became a “legacy” graduate. It led to my next important career preparation and that was at the Medill School of Journalism @Northwestern University. With my degree specialization in financial journalism, my career and later my doctorate in international business, have provided me with an outstanding the journey.

9. When final choices are made, consider the financial investment of travel to and from home to the college and university, the fees and tuition, location and whether the “helicopter” or “drone” parent syndrome is also involved in the decision-making.

It is not easy selecting which is the best college or university to advantage one’s career choice, yet it is worth the early investment.
If you are still unsure, request a year extension on attending a college or university also known as a “gap year.” Make sure your college or university offers such a program. You save your place in line while exploring a career, educational experience or a related adventure and perhaps gain some more research on whether the university will fill your career and life’s desires and needs. https://studentloanhero.com/featured/gap-year-disadvantages-important-pros-before-college/.

Ann L. Wead Kimbrough is an accomplished educator, award-winning financial journalist, author, special events leader, mentor and prolific contributor to select global and domestic non-profit causes. Her blog topics include travel, history, humor, education, career, family, journalism and ‘thought you should know’ subjects. https://www.linkedin.com/in/annlineve/

Graduates: How to transfer your ‘top of the world’ status into on the ground results

We are all aware that student loan debt for the class of 2016 was more than $37,000 per capita, according to the studentloanero.com website. However, be prepared to save, repay your investment and read to understand your new workplace benefits package.

The season of commencements is one of the most joyful periods in the cycle of life

Even more than New Year’s celebrations,  the season of moving the tassels atop the mortarboards from right to left, symbolizes a new season for graduates and their loved ones.

The congratulations are abundant for graduates during this season. Yet, there is that dreaded, proverbial  ‘day after’ when anxious thoughts and feelings creep into the brand new graduates’ mental space. It is at this intersection where I will offer a few tips on how how graduates, their parents and other family members, friends and others connected to the newly minted alumni can successfully transition to life after graduation:

  1. Savor and digest the collective “moment.” Savor by soaking up the positive and challenging words, hugs, kisses, tears and awakening from everyone and everything you encounter. Digest all that is good and store it away.
  2. Honor those loved ones who were not present — either due to death or inability to travel to the graduate’s location. Thank them for wiling the graduate onto the finish line.
  3. Save the graduation cards. Place the cards in your vision books or scan them or find another way to store them. Memorize the great words on the cards that resonate with your soul.  Make those words your new affirmations or mantras. I still have my high school and graduation cards from three decades ago. When times seem thin or if I just want to celebrate, I refer to those great words of light.
  4. Focus and listen — even if no one around you is listening — to the words of wisdom from your graduation speakers. Most graduation speakers’ names are forgotten unless s/he is famous. However, all speakers often have great nuggets of wisdom to offer graduates. I have found the graduation speakers’ remarks useful in many areas of my life.
  5. Take self inventory.  What do you know and what do you believe that you don’t know? Honesty is essential for success in this example. Many graduates feel the pressure of suddenly being smart because they are receiving a new ticket to a brighter future. Yet, the hardest question to answer for most folk is: What are you going to do with your degree? If you do not yet have the answer to that question, take advantage of the short period between graduation and your next opportunity to fully answer that question. Don’t try to reach for the ‘rest of your life’ answers; start with what you plan to do during the first the first year to five years.
  6. Plan your next steps. Begin your next phase of planning with a few categories of intention that feed off of what you just completed from #5 (see above). Place the following heads atop the page of your initial life’s plans: “Personal,” “Professional,” “Financial,” “Spiritual” and “Other.” For instance, I annually review my goals or plans and make adjustments accordingly.  If not at first, eventually, all of your categories should be in sync.
  7. Time for ‘the talk.’  If you have completed #s 5 and 6, then prepare for ‘the talk” with your parents, grandparents, siblings and other loved ones about your next steps. Far too many graduates are anxious because they have not provided honest or well thought replies to your family members who wish to learn about your immediate plans. I know of one student who is terrified of telling her father that she chose a new major and it is journalism and not a technology or science major.  She needs to be well-armed with the facts that the new forms of multimedia communication is indeed a STEM career. Salaries are rising for individuals who possess a journalism or public relations and especially a graphic design degree, on average will earn salaries higher than or equal to their counterparts with business or technology degrees.
  8. Prepare to “adult.” It means that college grads must find ways to make your prospective return to your parents’ home a short stay. We are all aware that student loan debt for the class of 2016 was more than $37,000 per capita, according to the 2017 studentloanero.com website. However, be prepared to save, repay your investment and read to understand your new workplace benefits package. Don’t forget to pay into your retirement. High school grads will be required to minimally wake up yourself and attend courses.
  9. Relax, relate and release. Call on your mentors to remind you of how much road you have ahead of you to travel. Enjoy the journey and shake off those things that do not benefit you.
  10. Smile. Enjoy your great life. I see so many graduates frowning before their names were called and they walked across the stage to accept their diploma covers and receive congratulatory handshakes. Similar to what I stated in #9, enjoy every aspect of your life. Graduating from high school or college means you are at an advantage than most of your counterparts around the world.

Ann Wead Kimbrough is the dean of the School of Journalism & Graphic Communication, Florida A&M University, Tallahassee, Florida. She is also the mother of three adult children who graduated from high schools, colleges and universities, religious and military programs.











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