OC Youth Summit deemed a success
The Messenger 02.20.08
Lori Marberry, youth coordinator for Northwest Tennessee Workforce Board, was very pleased with the outcome of the Obion County Youth Summit held earlier this month at the Obion County Public Library in Union City.
“Holding Youth Summits in each of the seven counties the Workforce Board serves is important because, while in general we feel that we are similar in rural Tennessee, the issues facing young people in Obion County are very different than Dyer or Tipton or Gibson County, etcetera,” Ms. Marberry said.
The discussion revolved around three general approaches to developing the talents of young people and creating meaningful experiences for youth from eighth grade through high school. The three main discussion topics were parental involvement, making healthy choices cool and having professional role models exhibit desirable work skills.
“I believe that Obion County has been very progressive in their support of youth. In recent years, its citizens have championed the Reading Railroad, the Promethean Project, Boys & Girls Club of Northwest Tennessee and Tennessee Scholars — embracing youth development projects for all ages,” said Henry Lewis, director for the Northwest Tennessee Workforce Board.
Ms. Marberry added, “While all the youth development initiatives have been a positive step for young people in Obion County, the participants in the Youth Summit agree that without strong parental support, the foundation of these projects is undermined.”
“It was suggested that a holistic family approach could be more beneficial, with parents seeking to learn better skills along with their children,” she added.
The business leaders concurred that more positive role models were needed. Business professionals even mentioned opening their doors to young people in order to develop a better sense of the world of work at an earlier age.
While several acknowledged that certain work environments have regulations that make it difficult to invite students for job shadowing, the consensus was that in a large number of occupations, career exploration days were possible and should be encouraged within the school systems.
“Getting parents involved in career education and preparing their young people for work is very important, especially now that new, highly-skilled and technical jobs are being created faster than we can train people for,” Lewis added.
“We need to make sure as community leaders we do not forget the students who fall below the top 20 percent who are not as academically successful or involved in key leadership activities. It may be more important to provide this 80 percent with strong parental support, adult mentors and peer mentors, because these are the young people that tend to stay in their hometowns.”
In support of this, many participants agreed that parents can be facing many obstacles keeping them from being fully involved in career education — like working two jobs or not having extensive work experiences themselves.
Suggestions to assist parents in helping their children make good classroom and work-related decisions included hosting parenting workshops in the workplace or offering seminars during parent-teacher conferences, starting at a young age.
Beverly Gidcumb of CBK Styles suggested, “Employers can encourage their workers to become more involved by providing incentives for their children getting good grades or for participating in community service projects. CBK offers monetary awards for employees’ children who make all As and Bs on their report cards and it’s been very successful.”
Overall, the participants in the Youth Summit agreed that the interconnectedness of educators, business and industry leaders, government officials and workforce development professionals needs to be strengthened in Obion County, with the input and action from youth. Input from youth is a critical component of producing effective change.