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

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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