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  Staff increases to support admitted student retention and boost awareness of 21st Century Scholars program as June 30 deadline approaches

From growing staff to partnering with over 100 community and business leaders to mentor young adults, Indy Achieves is making progress in its first year. This initiative was established by Mayor Joe Hogsett and is housed at EmployIndy to support Marion County students as they pursue a postsecondary degree or credential. Over the past few months, Indy Achieves has furthered relationships with IUPUI, Ivy Tech Community College, and the Commission for Higher Education to make it possible to bridge the education attainment gap in Marion County.

The broad goal of Indy Achieves is to address the Indianapolis skills gap of 215,000 residents who need job-ready credentials by 2025. EmployIndy is also putting the personnel in place to improve summer retention for students and increase public awareness of available (and often overlooked) financial aid for their postsecondary education.

One of the key components of Indy Achieves is the mentorship program. Yecenia Tostado, Associate Director of Indy Achieves, has taken lead in making this program a reality as the first connections were made between mentors and mentees in February 2019. Since its inception, this program has connected over 100 business and civic leaders with two to three college-bound students each by utilizing a text messaging system to send reminders about important deadlines, such as filling out an application, attending orientation, registering for courses, and more.

“Yecenia Tostado has been integral in building the Indy Achieves mentorship program from the ground up,” said Matt Impink, Executive Director of Indy Achieves. “Under her direction, we surpassed our recruitment goals and she has established a lasting model that provides flexibility and ease for students and mentors alike.”

With the mentorship program underway, the Indy Achieves team is focusing their efforts on an even younger population: middle school students. In 2017, only 51% of the eligible 8th grade Marion County students were registered for 21st Century Scholars, a program from Indiana’s Commission for Higher Education that grants full tuition scholarships for Hoosier students to attend an Indiana two- or four-year college after they complete high school. 

Esther Gamble, Indy Achieves Manager of Student Progress, recently joined the team and is working to increase awareness of 21st Century Scholars. From meeting with guidance counselors and sharing a 21st Century Scholars Enrollment Toolkit to speaking on the news, Gamble is going school to school, encouraging parents and educators to register their students before time runs out for graduating 8th graders on June 30, 2019.

In addition to grassroots promotion, EmployIndy is furthering awareness for Indy Achieves via an online and radio advertising campaign targeting parents and guardians as schools are reaching summer break.

“The growth of this program fulfills the vision of EmployIndy to remove barriers for all Marion County residents so every individual has the opportunity to excel,” said Angela Carr Klitzsch, president & CEO of EmployIndy. “Indy Achieves creates an avenue to improve the future of the workforce by addressing the projected skills gap in Indianapolis.”

With available funding from Commission for Higher Education programs like 21st Century Scholars, students currently experiencing financial barriers have the opportunity to invest in their education. More good and promising jobs now than ever before require individuals to have some form of postsecondary training or education. In order to build up Indianapolis and open doors for our young people, it is crucial to utilize the education funding available.

The due date to register all Indianapolis graduating 8th graders for 21st Century Scholars is June 30th, 2019. For Marion County residents seeking application assistance, Indy Achieves aims to help so students can achieve their dreams – learn more at indyachieves.org/21cs.


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 businesssolutions@nullemployindy.org to get started today!


Posted on March 15th, 2019 in Events Tags: ,

Spring is upon us, and as summer gets closer, young adults are starting to think about summer jobs and other opportunities for growth. On March 11, Congressman André Carson hosted his sixth annual Youth Opportunities Fair at the Central Library to help Indianapolis youth find these job, learning, and volunteer opportunities, with over 75 organizations attending. Young adults also participated in sessions designed to help them with interviewing skills and resume review.

Amanda Finch from the YMCA explained how volunteering can help youth get their “foot in the door.” Skills learned at a volunteering position or job with the YMCA can transfer into real life situations.  “One of our most popular positions is lifeguarding. We teach them so many valuable life skills and safety skills that can branch out beyond what they do in their role at the Y – they could save somebody’s life.”

Many jobs, including those at YMCA, Indy Parks, FedEx, Kroger, and more, are filled by connections made through Project Indy, Mayor Joe Hogsett’s youth jobs program. EmployIndy staff were on-site helping young adults sign up and download the Project Indy app to get them started.

Representatives from Indy Parks and Kroger emphasized the variety of opportunities available to youth as they work their way up from entry-level positions. “A lot of the people in our positions started as 16 year old lifeguards and cashiers and worked their way up, so getting a job at Indy Parks could be a career move,” said Will Hollowell from Rhodius Park. “The best skill I’ve found is just people who want to work. Being excited about work is a key attribute that many teens possess.”

Matt Mueller landed his first job bagging groceries at Kroger twenty-four years ago, and has found various opportunities to continue his career there since. “People think that sometimes working for Kroger is just bagging groceries or stocking milk or whatever it may be, but it’s so much more than that. You can work in Human Resources and Marketing and Transportation and Logistics – any career you could ever want, you could do that under the Kroger umbrella – starting from the single utility clerk job bagging groceries,” he explained.

As hundreds of young adults browsed the aisles, most were able to walk away with a lead or an idea of where to aim next. Not everyone will find their dream summer job – but exposure to these opportunities available is important as they continue to learn and think about a future job, education, or career.

Andre Allen from FedEx Ground offered a bit of succinct advice: “Stay persistent – we’re always looking for new talent.”