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Posted on June 28th, 2019 in Events, Success Story Tags:

After weeks of work, over 60 students gathered for a ceremony at Marian University’s Allison Mansion with caps and gowns in hand to be recognized for accomplishments in overcoming their barriers to achieve educational progress.

“People invested in us, and we are so grateful,” said Sonya Barlow, who earned her hospitality (START) certification through Edna Martin Christian Center. Sonya initially went to EMCC for help with paying her utility bills, and ran into an education coach while there. After putting it off for a while, she eventually enrolled in the ten-week program, and now sees her life trajectory differently. “This is a stepping stone – now I am applying for jobs, and Edna Martin is helping me with my resume.”

Sonya Barlow (left) and Temeka Thomas

Sonya’s friend Temeka Thomas was quick to chime in when the topic of “why enroll” came up. “I did this for me – I did it to better myself,” she said. “I’m so excited – they lifted me up through losing my apartment and other tough times, but now I am here and my children are so proud of me.”

Temeka had similarly found Edna Martin Christian Center to seek help with mounting utility bills when she met Tawnya McCreary, their operations director. At this event, with numerous EMCC clients earning credentials, Tawnya appeared as a celebrity snapping photos and delivering hugs.

“Its never just social supports – we offer everything, and our clients have a choice to pursue more,” she said. “From funders, to programming, to the time that students have spent, to the efforts of staff and resources – to get here, it means our investment is getting a return. It is a blessing and an honor every time.”

Other participants were part of the YouthBuild program, which also utilizes EmployIndy’s YES Indy funding to provide NCCER construction certifications and high school equivalencies.

Travis Smith is almost 18, struggled with traditional school, and intentionally stepped into an HSE class to change his learning environment and move into a career. “This is for regular people like me,” he said, “with lots of problems going on making regular school too hard. They helped me, they checked in on me and would give me a gas card or help with a phone bill when times got tough.”

Travis Smith (right) poses with EmployIndy’s Senior Director of Opportunity Youth, Rodney Francis

The guest speaker at the ceremony, Evan Casey, left students with a feeling of inspiration – see the video below:


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.


INDIANAPOLIS, IN – November 20, 2018 – Today nine young adults completed a training program that gives them the power and the tools to change their lives. The Pivot Re-Engagement Center, a partnership between EmployIndy, Finish Line Boys and Girls Club, and Community Alliance of the Far Eastside (CAFE), celebrated their first cohort of the “Power Huddle,” a mindset and employability skills course that prepares individuals for their next step in establishing their career.

Located at the Finish Line Boys & Girls Club on North Post Road, the Pivot Re-Engagement Center is one of many ways that EmployIndy has focused efforts on the Far Eastside, a target area of their strategic plan where unemployment and poverty remain higher than the rest of Marion County. EmployIndy launched the Pivot Re-Engagement Center with a goal of registering 100 young adults in 2018. Since the soft launch in May 2018, 740 individuals have signed up. Not only does this signify that there is a need for a safe space, but there is also a desire in these young adults to grow.

“They go through [the Power Huddle] not knowing it is a huge stepping stone for them,” said Jamarro Johnson, YES Youth Employment Specialist at CAFE. “When we meet and I address the steps to make this possible, they realize that their dreams aren’t as far off as they once imagined.”

The first Power Huddle cohort

This is why the Power Huddle is a crucial first step to finding sustainable employment, discovering their passions, or engaging in post-secondary training and education. Once through the Power Huddle, CAFE is engaging participants by providing assistance in adult basic education enrollment and guiding young adults into their career through a variety of career exploration and service elements. For Pivot participants, these opportunities provide a gateway for each individual to pursue his/her dreams.

“It’s all about transformation for us,” said Rodney Francis, EmployIndy Senior Director of Opportunity Youth Initiatives. “If they are self-motivated and learn to establish a vision and goals for themselves, then they have a better chance at success.”

The participants come from a variety of backgrounds, but all share the same dream of creating a bright future for themselves. Daysha, 22, is a Power Huddle graduate who started her education at Indiana University in 2014, but then had to drop out for financial and transportation reasons. She decided to move back to Indianapolis and enroll at IUPUI. A little over a year ago, Daysha resigned from IUPUI for similar reasons but also had a realization: “Not only could I not pay for my own wifi, I realized I didn’t know what I wanted to do or where to apply myself.”

Jayden, another participant, is 17 and graduating early from Lawrence North High School. He finished all of his classes this past summer, and this fall he has been working at McDonald’s while waiting to walk at his high school graduation in December. Jayden has always wanted to become a carpenter but not looked into local training opportunities, so he was not sure how he could reach this next step.

“When [Pivot instructors] were talking, they were all saying things I needed to hear to build my own self-confidence,” said Jayden. “Instead of always underestimating myself, I had a real potential to go and achieve my goals. It helped me to see myself from a different perspective and know that I am capable of doing what I dream.”

This sentiment was the resounding echo from the students. The Pivot Power Huddle opened their eyes to see where their passions align with their skills and current workforce needs in high-demand industries.

Since completing the Power Huddle, Daysha has decided to not only re-enroll at IUPUI and get her bachelor’s degree in Communications, but she wants to apply for the Peace Corps by next year so she can work overseas with youth. In addition, Jayden has looked into the best carpentry courses and wants to start his own business once he has achieved his certification and established a solid amount of reliable clientele.

“I think this program truly has the potential to impact young lives on the eastside,” said Erik Davenport, the Pivot Re-Engagement Center Director. “Even in the past two weeks, I have noticed such a change in their mindsets. You can really see the turning point when they believe their dreams are reachable.”

EmployIndy’s goal is that all young adults will understand their potential to excel personally and professionally. With an estimated 30,000 young adults in Marion County who need to reconnect to postsecondary education and better careers, the stakes are high. However, EmployIndy believes that progress has to happen at an individual and granular level, and these nine individuals have begun the journey to improving their lives by learning more about themselves, their passions, and their potential for success.

“I want to recognize all of the Pivot employees: They do such a good job making sure everyone has the resources they need, and you can genuinely tell that they care about you. I know that they don’t have to do what they do and we all really appreciate it,” said Daysha.

The second Power Huddle cohort will last one week and begin on December 3rd. Info sessions will take place November 27th – 30th daily at 11:30am at the  Finish Line Boys & Girls Club. Plans are in the works to offer employer tours and invite businesses to come and inform potential participants about their organizational and hiring needs.

For more information about the Pivot Re-Engagement Center or the Power Huddle program, please contact Rodney Francis: rfrancis@nullemployindy.org

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About EmployIndy  
EmployIndy guides the local workforce ecosystem and makes strategic investments to remove barriers to quality employment for underserved and underrepresented residents. As the workforce development board for Marion County, guided by 21 business, civic, education, and non-profit community leaders, EmployIndy invests $20 million in public, private, and philanthropic funds for both youth and adults annually.

About Boys and Girls Club of Indianapolis
Since 1893, Boys & Girls Clubs of Indianapolis have served the Indianapolis community. With five facility-based Clubs and five school-based sites, BGCI serves nearly 7,000 youth annually in the areas of career exploration and educational enhancement, citizenship and leadership, the arts, and health and fitness. For additional information, please call (317) 920-4700 or visit www.BGCINDY.org. Follow Boys & Girls Clubs of Indianapolis @BGCINDY and “Like” us on Facebook at Facebook.com/bgcindy.

About Community Alliance of the Far Eastside (CAFE)
CAFE’s mission is to offer direct aid to residents of the Far Eastside who are in desperate need. CAFE offers programming that supports youth and seniors alike, all with a continued focus on improving the quality of life for those who live, work and worship in the Far Eastside community. One of CAFE’s leading programs is their Center for Working Families, which helps transition families from living paycheck to paycheck to investing in their future – not only getting a job, but a career; not only meeting expenses, but saving for their first home.

Pivot, Power Huddle, and EmployIndy staff

Cohort 1 with shoes provided by Finish Line

Cohort 1 finding out about Kanye shoes from Finish Line

Ashayla Spearman

Cameron Kimmons

Daysha Beck

Dezmond Johnson

Jayden Dixon

Jeffery Ezel

Richard Berry

Tamia McNary