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Many young people, regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, or background, struggle to find their path during one of the most transformative periods of their lives: their late teens and early twenties. In a recent report by the Brookings Institute, studies show that this specifically applies to individuals within this population who fall in the low income bracket and with little hope of upward mobility. Many people in this population do not believe they have the opportunities available to pursue a good and promising career or postsecondary education. The mission of EmployIndy’s YES Indy program is to break down these financial and mindset barriers so all people, regardless of their history, are able to excel not only in the workforce, but as individuals.

Many of these young men and women are placed into the stereotype of being a ‘troublemaker’ while in reality they have been proven to be some of the most dedicated workers because they have the most to lose. Through the YES Indy Re-Engagement Center (YES Indy REC; formerly the Pivot Re-Engagement Center), EmployIndy and service providers throughout Indianapolis are making an effort to engage these young people to break down and rebuild the mindsets they may have developed based on what society has told them about themselves.

“If more people join the program, they can take the step to be exactly what they want to be in life. They need to know that you can have goals in life and not everything has to be the end of the road. The most important part of life is to not give up – to keep trying against all odds,” said Jervell Jackson, one of the early participants of the Power Huddle program through YES Indy REC.

The first time Jervell joined the Power Huddle he dropped out because he didn’t believe people would want to waste their time and resources on him. He didn’t think he was worth it. He had given up at the age of 21. After hearing what he believed were rumors of other people receiving support and getting jobs, he made the conscious decision to take a risk and join the Power Huddle. “I took this information I learned and put it to use. Not only have I become a better man, I learned how crucial it is to find what you want your career in life to be and to not settle for anything less.”

Since then, Jervell has become closely involved with YES Indy and encourages his peers to join by sharing his story of how it has impacted his life. He is seen as a leader at the REC and pushes others to take a chance to change their life.

Jervell (second from left) and the young men who attended the Beautillion alongside Senior Director of Opportunity Youth, Rodney Francis (third from right)

Recently, Jervell and five other young men who completed the Power Huddle, attended the 100 Black Men Beautillion. With the help of YES Indy, they were able to not only attend but to receive new attire for the event. The Beautillion is a ‘rite of passage’ for individuals from 100 Black Men who have undergone a mentorship experience and are making a commitment to themselves and their community to be individuals who are positive representatives in society, to raise their family in the same way, and accept responsibility for all their actions.

“It was amazing how quickly they adapted to the environment. You could truly see how they transformed from a from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset which reinforced what they learned in the Power Huddle,” said Katrina Owens of GO Consulting who attended this event with the young men.

In addition to attending powerful experiences such as this, Jervell has been working closely with YES Indy career navigator at CAFE, Jamarro Johnson. “Jervell was tired of living in the ‘right now’ and being told he couldn’t chase his dreams. He is now moving forward and taking serious steps to excel.”

When Jamarro found out that Jervell had the dream of being a CDL driver, he used YES Indy funds to make this possible by buying him a book to study for his commercial drivers license (CDL) test. While working part-time as a basketball referee, Jervell studied and passed his test. He was recently hired by Midwest Landscaping and is actively taking the steps to reach his overall dream of driving and eventually purchasing his own truck.  

Many young people like Jervell are looking for a second chance and YES Indy provides that opportunity. By becoming an employer partner, businesses have the confidence that they are hiring people eager to learn and have the support of community based organizations throughout the city to assist in getting them on the right path to personal and professional success. Employers should connect with EmployIndy’s business solutions team to learn more.

Posted on May 24th, 2019 in Uncategorized

Jessica Brown

One year after the death of our dear friend and coworker, Jessica Brown, we followed up with the student who benefited from the scholarship created in her memory: the Jessica Brown Memorial Scholarship.

This scholarship is given to the Marion County Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) student who mirrors Jessica’s passion for community service, strong work ethic, and genuine interest in the lives of his/her peers, regularly displaying random acts of kindness.

In 2018, the first winner of the Jessica Brown Memorial Scholarship was Tyrah Matherly, who at the time was a senior at Decatur Central High School. When Tyrah started JAG, she did not want to attend college – she had never been passionate about school. However, the JAG program changed that. Tyrah experienced a shocking realization that her career options were extremely limited if she decided not to pursue further education. Once that information sunk in, things began to quickly change.

Tyrah Matherly (middle) with EmployIndy Youth Services staff Erika Cheney (left) and Beth Bowling (right)

Through the help of her JAG specialist, Molly Hanson, she was able to get a job. “Ms. Hanson helped me create my resume, search for jobs, use the school computer to apply, and create a schedule to balance school and work,” said Tyrah. This process and the knowledge of her career options are what pushed Tyrah to apply for IUPUI to pursue a career as a dental hygienist. During her first semester, she used some of the funds from her scholarship to purchase the books she needed for her classes.

When the fall semester ended, Tyrah made the decision of transferring her credits to Purdue Global for two reasons: First, it gave her the flexibility to work a full-time job without the time constraints of an in-person course. Second, she decided to pursue a psychology degree with a focus on assisting people battling addiction.

With these online courses, Tyrah used the remainder of her scholarship money to purchase a new computer so she could continue her studies while working full-time in the OneAmerica contact center where she is developing job skills in a fast-paced setting with limited downtime.

As Tyrah pays her way through school, she is dreaming of ways to improve the lives of people struggling with substance abuse. “My life has always been centered around community service, especially when it comes to helping people and animals. I want to find a career where I can pair a person in addiction recovery with a rescue animal for support – a way of saving two lives at once,” she said.

The Jobs for America’s Graduates program gave Tyrah the boost to believe in herself and push herself to excel by utilizing time management skills and informing her of opportunities available through higher education. The Jessica Brown Memorial Scholarship was able to provide funding to help Tyrah reach her goals and continue to further her education.

If you would like to be part of changing other students lives, consider donating to the Jessica Brown Memorial Scholarship. These funds remove barriers for JAG students who may not have otherwise pursued a postsecondary education. Support for EmployIndy and its programs goes toward encouraging the future workforce to build a better future for themselves and their community.