A city-sponsored program to help teenagers and young adults make career choices and, which also attracted the attention of the White House, recently held an information session for people, who could benefit from the program.
The city of Memphis received $2.5 million in federal funding for Opportunity R3 under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Opportunity R3 helps young people ages 16-24 with career opportunities and work solutions.
Last year, Ken Moody, special assistant to Mayor Jim Strickland and director of Community Affairs, and the mayor met with U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and representatives of the U.S. Department of Labor about the program’s concept.
“Being invited to the White House with the mayor to share the successes of our R3 program is a testament to the administration’s commitment to providing opportunities for young people.
“These type programs will definitely be one of many initiatives to help our youth choose the right path instead of the wrong one,” said Moody.
On Jan. 6, Moody’s office held an information session to assess and interview teens and youth about eligibility for the next cohort.
On-site interviews were held at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library. The intake process consisted of asking questions related to career outlook and short term goals.
Prospective candidates interviewed with Opportunity R3 program facilitators Tamika A. Williams and Mary Helen Sinclair.
The next session starts Jan. 23.
Participants will be divided into two groups of 16-18 years and 19-24 years. There is a three-week training session to build a rapport, make connections with other business professionals and learn about career and job opportunities.
Project STAND, a program housed inside Memphis-Shelby County Schools, has referred alumni to Opportunity R3.
Dr. Tarol P. Clements, manager at Project STAND, said, “The program started in 2017 with a $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to address juvenile justice. The program is designed to help students prepare to become college and career ready.”
After graduating from Project STAND, advisors continue to work with graduates to ensure they are working or pursuing post-secondary opportunities.
“Opportunity R3 gives students (a chance) to job shadow, so students can obtain a real-life experience of what all duties and responsibilities come with the particular career,” said Tracy Gorea, Project STAND advisor.
“Students do not know what the job entails and when they job shadow, they can determine what they would like to do careerwise.”
Since 2017, Project STAND has graduated 753 students, Gorea said.
Aaliyah Robinson, a Project STAND graduate, is a participant in Opportunity R3.
The program had a huge impact on her life, and she was able to work on computer skills, build credit, and open a bank account.
She was introduced to administrative assistant work but realized that early childhood was her passion.
Upcoming sessions for Opportunity R3 are:
Teenagers 16-18 years-old — Jan. 23-Feb. 18, Feb. 27-March 17, and April 10- April 28.
Young adults 19-24 years-old — Jan. 23-Feb. 10, Feb. 27-March 17, April 10-April 28.
Each group will meet from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. five days a week and receive a stipend of $250 per week.
With an increase in juvenile crime in Memphis over the last 12 months, the city of Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis is working in collaboration with the initiative.
“Opportunity R3 is a great program that will provide education and guidance to young adults who want to make a difference. When we grow and invest in the younger generation, we create leaders that will thrive for years to come,” Davis said.
(To learn more about the initiative, visit https://opportunity.memphistn.gov/opportunity-r3.)
(Paula Anderson is a freelance business journalist. She can be reached at [email protected].)