At a time when the unemployment rate for African American youth is more than 4 times higher (33%) than the national unemployment rate (7.6%), what does an inner city young person need to do to 'Make it?" The answer to this question was shared on March 12 at the Mayor's Office of Employment Development's (MOED) Westside Youth Opportunity (YO! Baltimore) Center by national youth workforce development expert, Edward DeJesus. The event was called MAKiN iT Day(TM).
"If President Obama can get 23 million young people to the polling place, we should be able to get 200,000 to the market place," stated Edward DeJesus. DeJesus is referring to the nearly 200,000 youth enrolled in federal workforce programs. DeJesus acknowledges that the challenge is not that simple: "We know many inner city youth find themselves competing with college educated adults for minimum wage jobs. The situation is severe." And it doesn't get any better, according to a recent report released by the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University, only a small fraction of stimulus jobs will go to those without a college degree. "Inner city youth are stuck in a trap," states DeJesus. "And we are here to get them unstuck."
MAKiN' iT Day was held at YO! Baltimore located at 1510 W. Lafayette Avenue (at the corner of Gilmor Street) on March 12TH from 11:00 – 4:00. MAKiN' iT Day's main goal is to increase the high school completion rate and the number of at-risk youth who enter post-secondary education and/or the high wage labor market.
"We believe in building upon the strengths of each young person and providing the support of caring adults to help transform the lives of the youth we serve," shared Ernest Dorsey, director of MOED's Youth Opportunity Division.
DeJesus was joined by Maryland rapper M!Das as he performed his latest release: "Get in Gear," a song about overcoming challenges and taking responsibility for your community.
Edward DeJesus is the founder and creator of the Youth Cultural Competence movement. He possessed more than 20 years in the field of youth workforce development. He works with Cities, States and organizations in increasing positive options for youth. Tavis Smiley states, "DeJesus has found a way to communicate a message, which parents and educators have been trying to communicate for years–education makes a difference."
For DeJesus, a big part of the problem is that adults are reluctant to communicate old school values in new school ways. "I am not saying change the message, just change the methodology," DeJesus says.