in-school youth | EmployIndy

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Mayor Joe Hogsett, EmployIndy encourage parents of 7th and 8th grade students to file before June 30 deadline

June 24, 2019 – The deadline for 21st Century Scholars is only six days away and there are still many eligible 8th grade students that can sign up for a full tuition scholarship to Indiana colleges. One of the main reasons is that many are still unaware of the opportunity for their 7th or 8th grader to receive free college tuition.

“As a community, we leave a significant amount of money on the table every year – money that could provide an education and a path to a promising future,” said Mayor Joe Hogsett. “That is why it is so important for Marion County residents to apply for 21st Century Scholars before the June 30th deadline, to make sure all available resources make it into the hands of our students and families who need it most.”

Led by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, the 21st Century Scholars program provides income-eligible Hoosier students up to four years of college tuition at any participating college or university in Indiana. A crucial part of the process is that the application must be completed by June 30th of a student’s 8th grade year, which can sneak up on families currently focused on the transition to high school. In recent years, only about half of eligible Marion County students have enrolled.

Indy Achieves, an initiative launched by Mayor Joe Hogsett and housed at EmployIndy, is pursuing many avenues to make it easy for individuals to apply and boost enrollment rates, such as:

  •      Implementing a mobile application process;
  •      Working with families one-on-one to file and submit their applications;
  •      Attending school functions to inform individuals about 21st Century Scholars; and
  •      Partnering with community organizations to spread the word

In about five minutes, parents are able to file an application for their student to go to an Indiana college tuition free, removing a financial burden that can takes years post-graduation to pay back.   

The application is a one-sheet, front and back document that makes a difference in a child’s life forever and time is running out for all Indiana 8th graders to submit their information. Once the deadline passes, rising high school freshman who have not applied will no longer have the opportunity to receive free college tuition through the 21st Century Scholars program.

Learn more and access the application at

Today freshmen at Crispus Attucks High School participated in mock interviews at their Future Center, conducted by local business organizations, such as EmployIndy, Ivy Tech, and St. Vincent/Ascension. These students spent their semester in the course ‘Preparing for College and Careers’ taught by Polly Brelage. This course taught them about the importance of two of the three IPS School ‘Three E’ mentality: Enroll and Employ. Although the students had been preparing for these interviews, many of them still struggled to demonstrate the necessary skills for success.

Beth Bowling (EmployIndy) interviews Crispus Attucks student

“The largest barrier for these students during their interviews was not being able to supply different examples of work experience they have had,” said Beth Bowling, EmployIndy’s Associate Director of In-School Engagement. “With many students being so young and not yet having an employment history in the traditional sense, many of them had a difficult time thinking outside the box and translating their life experience into a workplace setting.”

However, not all students struggled with this part of the prompt. Brian, one of the interviewees, shared a bit of his experience with the mock interview:

“The hardest part was definitely when they asked about my experience and why I would be good for the job since I’ve never worked anywhere before,” he stated. “But then I remembered that I could pull from examples in my own life. I talked about different jobs I’ve had around the house and how I’ve been mowing the yard and tied that into how it makes me a hard worker and good at multitasking.”

“I was so proud of Brian. This entire semester he has been quiet and hesitant to speak up and his performance today truly impressed me,” said Polly, reflecting on her students’ experiences. “Many students don’t understand how important it is to participate in mock interviews. Although they don’t see it now, down the road they will realize what they learned in this class made a difference in their life.”

Mechelle Polter (EmployIndy) interviewing Brian (Crispus Attucks student)

By participating in conducting mock interviews, employers and business leaders can truly impact a student’s future. It may seem mundane during the practice, but this kind of work-based learning experience is one of many that shapes an individual as they prepare for the workforce. As a workplace professional, you have the skills to not only help young adults get ready for job interviews, you also know some ‘tricks of the trade.’

“You need to remember you are interviewing the company just like they are interviewing you,” shared Mechelle Polter, EmployIndy’s Work-based Learning Manager, during a Q&A at the end of the mock interview session. By helping students’ practice, they are gaining more than just basic interview skills – they are having life experiences.

Robert King (Ivy Tech) interviews Crispus Attucks student

Robert King, Assistant Director of K-12 Initiatives at Ivy Tech Community College, chose to take this one step further as he tied in not only how it is important to interview well, but also how crucial it is to expand their education in order to pursue a good and promising career. Through Ivy Tech’s dual-credit program, Crispus Attucks students have the opportunity to earn over one semester of transferrable course credits, saving them thousands down the road.

If you want to participate in a work-based learning experience but don’t know if an off-site mock interview is the right fit for you, EmployIndy offers connections to many other opportunities for students to experience the workforce first-hand. We are able to provide you with step-by-step instructions on how to conduct an on-site tour, participate in job shadowing or guest speaking, establish an outline for a successful apprenticeship or internship, and other work-based learning opportunities for young people.

Contact our business solutions and talent team at to get started today!

Erika Cheney, EmployIndy Director of In-School Youth

In the Spring of 2016, I was one of four local leaders who travelled to witness and experience the Southwest Alabama Workforce Development Council’s World of Opportunities event, which became the framework for JA JobSpark. I was chosen to travel because I am the Director of In-School Youth Services for EmployIndy, Indianapolis’ Workforce Development Board, and I serve on the JA JobSpark Steering committee and as the facilitator for the Government, Law, and Public Service Cluster.

Erika Cheney and Leslie Crist (Assoc. Chief of Workforce Programs for Indiana DWD) at 2017 JA JobSpark

My direct impact on the growth of JA JobSpark has stimulated EmployIndy’s involvement and partnership with many local businesses and organizations. We have staff members on the JA JobSpark Marketing committee, Volunteer and Logistics subcommittee, day-of volunteers, and who participate in JA for A Day! (employees go into IPS schools and teach Junior Achievement curriculum). EmployIndy also has staff members from our Business Partnerships team who sit on the different committees for each industry cluster.

JA JobSpark is such a unique event here in Indianapolis. I love to see the excitement on each of the kids’ faces when they come through the door and experience it for the first time. One of the major reasons that EmployIndy chooses to be so heavily involved in this event is that the 8th grade students who attend are given opportunities to explore and learn more about a variety of occupations that they may not know previously existed. As Director of In-School Youth, I oversee all of EmployIndy’s in-school programs, which focus on getting young adults to take those steps to further their careers. For many, JA JobSpark is the first opportunity to get young adults interested in their futures as they progress into high school, begin to think about career exploration, and become knowledgeable about postsecondary opportunities.

I believe that knowledge is power – the more we are able to arm Indianapolis youth with the awareness of the variety of potential career options, the more they can be prepared for their next step.

The hands-on resources open doors for these 8th graders as they learn more about a variety of careers and different workforce sectors. Questions created from this event will open doors for the students to ask employers, professionals in the field, about their jobs and the steps they took to get where they are today. After they attend the event, they leave with the freedom to ask their teachers more about career clusters and the job opportunities they experienced during JA JobSpark.

Beyond just providing knowledge, I believe it is crucial that every participant is gifted with the tools and resources they need to make good decisions about their future. JA JobSpark helps students be more thoughtful about what they want to be when they grow up. These rewards make it worth all of the finances, time, and long nights that are put towards making this program possible and making a difference in someone’s life. Our hope is that this experience will encourage students to make better choices in their future and share their involvement with the participants who come after them.

Since JA JobSpark kicked off in 2016, it has created a wave in the business community. There is a buzz around how important it is to invest in the future of the workforce, and it starts with molding individuals while they are young to both chase their dreams and learn that the effort and hard work are worth it. It makes the Government, Law, and Public Service cluster stand out. Although it isn’t always the highest paying sector, the payoff is more than rewarding with the daily opportunities to better the lives of the community and gain a strong desire to help people. These characteristics carry over into your home life and shape you into a person that is influential and will have a positive impact on the lives of those around you.