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Posted on August 1st, 2019 in Press Releases Tags: ,

EmployIndy is formally launching its YES Indy Re-Engagement Center (REC), expanding to two additional locations at Eastern Star Church and Mount Carmel Church after soft-launching a pilot site over a year ago with the Finish Line Boys & Girls Club on the Far Eastside. The RECs are designed as an outreach tactic to attract “opportunity youth” – residents ages 16-24 who have disconnected from education and/or employment – using open gym basketball to bring them to a space where career services can be offered.

open gym basketballThe concept came from the mind of Rev. Rodney Francis, senior director of opportunity youth at EmployIndy, and aligns with the organization’s strategic plan to provide positive opportunities for young adults, particularly in impoverished, high-crime neighborhoods. The first REC has been quietly operating at the Finish Line Boys & Girls Club, utilizing their facility during school hours when it would traditionally be closed.

“Boys & Girls Clubs of Indianapolis believes every young person deserves to live a life filled with hope and opportunity,” said Maggie A. Lewis, CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Indianapolis. “Providing our youth on the Far Eastside with more than just basketball, but a safe place to spend time and engage with those who can help them seek educational and employment opportunities is critical to inspiring and empowering them toward success.”

Since the soft launch last May, over 1,200 individuals have come through the doors to play basketball, many of whom would meet the criteria to receive YES Indy services. Once engaged, young adults have opportunities to engage with REFs (re-engagement facilitators) and start creating a life change by attending the “Power Huddle,” a mind-setting course offered at the Finish Line Boys & Girls Club to participants who want to take that first step. 

During the Power Huddle, participants reframe their view of their own future and are introduced to opportunities available through YES Indy, such as achieving their high school equivalency, working with a career coach, enrolling in training, and receiving barrier busting support, such as assistance with rent, transportation, or childcare.

“Reconnecting disconnected young adults with education and employment opportunities is an important element of our strategy for inclusive growth,” said Mayor Joe Hogsett.  “When young people in all of our city’s neighborhoods have access to postsecondary education and good paying jobs, we see greater social and economic equality, as well as successes in crime reduction and an increase in the overall sense of security for youth and their families across Indianapolis.”

Key to making the concept work is developing partnerships for hosting participants and working with one of the eleven Indianapolis-area YES Indy providers to offer career services. EmployIndy also negotiated relationships with adult education providers and local businesses for referrals. The collaborative efforts aim to have lasting impact on the crime, poverty, and economic mobility in the neighborhoods where RECs are located.

In order to continue these efforts, EmployIndy has braided funds from grantors such as Lilly Endowment, Starbucks Foundation, the City of Indianapolis Office of Public Health and Safety and most recently, Community Leadership Innovation Fund, a fund of Central Indiana Community Foundation (CICF).

“We cannot ignore the barriers confronting these individuals,” said Milt Thompson, advisor to the Community Leadership Innovation Fund at Central Indiana Community Foundation. “These youth are at a critical moment in their lives and need our community’s support more than ever.”

Jervell Jackson has been a regular during the open gym basketball, and YES Indy has opened doors that may never have seemed possible. His career navigator at CAFE, a YES Indy service provider, helped pay for books to prepare for his CDL exam, and connected him to classes to become a certified basketball referee. The staff at the various organizations who partner to bring YES Indy to life are excited when they see positive outcomes and hope to see more as the two new RECs continue to grow.

“I took the information I learned and put it to use,” said Jackson. “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.”

Connect to a YES Indy service provider at yesindy317.org.


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.