In the wake of recent disturbances and concern about developing positive opportunities for Columbia’s youths this summer, Columbia Mayor Darwin Hindman and First Ward Councilwoman Almeta Crayton have drafted a letter that will be sent to hundreds of local businesses in the next few days.
Hindman said the letter is the result of the city’s efforts to match young people with employers. It urges local businesses and volunteer programs to provide staff to interview prospective employees or volunteers at the upcoming Mayor’s Summer Youth Opportunities Fair.
Hindman is making rounds on radio shows to promote the idea. He appeared on Amy Miller’s radio show on KSSZ/93.9 FM on Wednesday evening. He will also be interviewed on KFRU/1400 AM today at 8:30 a.m.
“It is a first glimpse for some of these young people who are new to the workforce,” said Steve Tatlow, community involvement coordinator for the Boone County Community Partnership.
Tatlow, whose organization is one of the lead sponsors for the fair, said 19 employer and volunteer organizations have committed to participate in the fair.
However, Crayton and Hindman’s letter indicates that more help is needed to help youths find positive employment or volunteer positions for the summer.
In addition to the opportunities fair, Tatlow also encourages young people to attend the larger “Let’s Change the Odds for Our Families” conference. It will feature workshops on youth entrepreneurship and the interview and job application process.
He estimated that at least 55 young people were connected with employment or volunteer opportunities at last year’s event.
He said Job Corps, Taco Bell, the Columbia Parks Department, University Hospitals and Clinics, MBS and Spherion are among the employers and volunteer programs that have committed to participate in the fair this year.
Tatlow said last year’s fair was the result of the diligence of Crayton, who insisted on the need for more summer work and volunteer opportunities for the city’s youths.
Gilbert Hake, regional manager of the Missouri Division of Workforce Development, said the letter will help further his organization’s efforts to target businesses that might be interested in the fair.
“We hope to mail as many as 200 (letters) in the next few days,” Hake said.
He said members of the Chamber of Commerce as well as other local businesses will be targeted.
Nathan Stephens, who works with the Youth Empowerment Program and is also a member of the First Ward Ambassadors, said the entire city will benefit from the fair.
“We’re going to discuss how kids can beat the odds and assist themselves,” Stephens said, emphasizing that fair is intended for any interested youths.
“It’s not just the First Ward,” he said. “Kids all over Columbia need assistance.”
He and others will host workshops at the fair and conference that deal with ways youths can avoid a future that is plagued by poverty.
“We as a community need to come together and realize that the things that are going on are not isolated incidents,” Stephens said. “We can help young people lead positive lives.”