Somewhere between Chicago City Hall and a non-profit on the city’s near west side, a forward-thinking idea was born and 50 youth are reaping its rewards.
One Summer Chicago youth jobs program matched 32,000 opportunities with teens and young adults at 2,000 work sites. Mayor Rahm Emanuel says the program is designed to help Chicago’s youth gain experience, mentors and resume strength “for future success.”
He is right.
At the Center For Companies That Care (CTC) work site, 50 youth ages 16 – 21, are learning how to become event planners during a six-week program that pays them to learn the new theory and skills. Through a rigorous and creative curricula that includes daily debriefs, and weekly presentations from different community and corporate speakers, the youth participants gain keen insight on how to plan a large event at Chicago’s Grant Park in 2019.
Marci Koblenz is the founder of CTC, a decade-old nonprofit that partners with companies, schools and now the city of Chicago, to help economically disadvantaged students enter and graduate from college. There is more to CTC that connects to its mission, values and goals. See https://www.companies-that-care.org.
Koblenz had the light bulb moment to start the non-profit when she realized the biggest difference between her upbringing in Ohio and the urban youth of Chicago was their respective zip codes.
“In my zip code … we were expected to go to college and we did,” Koblenz told an audience of high school awardees and high school graduates of her program who were being honored for being accepted to various Midwest and Southern colleges and universities.
“I want you to take off something before you go to college and its the weight that drags you down. That weight that says to you, ‘I am not going to graduate from college,” Koblenz said.
That is why Koblenz, her small staff and working board of directors are motivated to help Chicago’s youth. It is because they know that many of the high schoolers enrolled in the few slots available for pre-college preparedness, would not have a shot at scholarships, internships and mentorships if it were not for CTC.
The summer youth employment program is a first for CTC and a “perfect fit” from Koblenz’s vantage point. It gives the youth a directional path in the vast events management field while paying them to learn the skills needed to plan and execute large public activities like the “5K March to College 2019.” With some 30,000 youth from Chicago high schools and other special guests expected, the CTC annual (except for 2018) March to College event for 2019 is well on its way. The planning portion is what the students have been working on during the program that ends in early August 2018.
I met the students in week four.
Like other pro bono speakers, I shared my niche expertise in event management as I put them through the paces in in a revamped warehouse-like conference room of CTC. As the Community Relations Director for the organizing committee of the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, and volunteer manager in the NFL’s Super Bowls in Atlanta and President Bill Clinton’s second inaguration, I also brought along ‘show and tell’ items that included an extra Olympic gold medal. (Olympic organizers have to produce multiple first, second and third place medals for athletes in case there is a tie. The so-called overstock is either sold for a modest fee or offered as a freebie to the Olympics organizers).
During my hours-long time on West Van Buren Street in the large room with walls of brick and interactive white boards, I was became impressed with the students’ role playing through two mock press conferences and problem-solving through case studies from the Olympic Games.
The students who are motivated to consider careers in special events planning, management and production, are ready to do so. They caught on quickly as they were learning events operations, marketing, sales, communication, risk management and many more areas.
Hint, hint to the thousands of event supervisors across the nation and world: You have a wonderful group to select from in this cohort of CTC summer youth trained and future event leaders.
(Photograph, clockwise from top: Center For Companies That Care Board Chairman Darrin Greene and his high school mentee at Applus Technologies, Inc., where Greene is the CEO and Country Manager US; Summer Youth program participants during mock press conference; Marci Konlenz. CTC founder. Greene and his mentees brother and mother. I chose to omit names as permission was only provided by Mom for photo usage)
Ann L. Wead Kimbrough is an accomplished educator, award-winning financial journalist, author, special events leader, mentor and prolific contributor to select global and domestic non-profit causes. Her blog topics include travel, history, humor, education, career, family, journalism and ‘thought you should know’ subjects. https://www.linkedin.com/in/annlineve