Weekly Update


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Starting Monday, the 1,750 young people who will be a part of our MPLOY program this summer will begin their six-week experience.

But while that represents a 75 percent increase in summer jobs in our tenure, we weren’t satisfied. We sought partnerships with Verizon and the Boys and Girls Club, as well as Williams-Sonoma, and we also were proud to benefit from Brittney Block’s Bicentennial Summer Jobs fund. As a result, depending on the results of tomorrow’s orientation, the total number of employed young people will increase perhaps as many as 2,000!

You know just how much positively connecting our young people to opportunity matters to me. I’m proud that we’ve drastically increased youth summer jobs, and we will continue to find ways to add more, particularly as we work to implement the wide-ranging plan for opportunity youth we announced last month.

Reading matters: Last week, I was honored to speak at the annual lunch of one of my favorite non-profits in town, Arise2Read. This group’s volunteers coach second graders on sight words to improve literacy, and they have expanded in the last six years to 34 schools with more than 1,200 volunteers, including my wife.

In the schools at which Arise2Read tutors work, only 19 percent of second graders were reading at grade level when the school year began. At the end of the school year, after this weekly tutoring, 67 percent were at grade level. That’s huge.

Here’s why this work is important: Overall, only 24 percent of third graders in Shelby County Schools read at a third grade level. And third grade is when students typically transition from learning to read to needing to read to learn. If you’re not reading at third grade level by third grade, you run the risk of falling behind for the rest of your academic career, which can have disastrous effects on your life.

This is why we worked so hard last year to initiate City funding for Pre-Kindergarten. We worked with Shelby County and Shelby County Schools, and, as a result, universal, needs-based Pre-K will be reality in 2020.

Literacy is the key to the long-term success of our children and our city. Think about it: If we could turn that 24 percent into, say, 74 percent, we could make a major positive impact on our future.

You can be involved, too. Volunteer with Arise2Read here or SCS’ Team Read here.

Reducing recidivism: You know that we are rebuilding the Memphis Police Department. But we also know that we cannot police ourselves out of our crime challenge (that’s why we spend so much time, energy, and focus on our youth, for instance).

One very important pillar of our long-term crime reduction strategy involves reducing recidivism — when ex-offenders return to crime after release. It’s vitally important that people released from prison have every opportunity available to them to live a productive life in society.

I wrote about this topic in this guest column today in The Daily Memphian. I’m hoping you’ll join me in exploring it further by attending a forum on June 11 at the University of Memphis Public Safety Institute. The goal is simple: We want to connect local businesses with skilled workers who are ex-offenders. You can learn more and register here.

Paving progress: Crews were out recently on Raines Road in Whitehaven and Ridgeway Road near 385. As always, you can check in on our city-wide paving plans here.

Partnering for Hope: I was proud to be in Atlanta Thursday with my friend John Hope Bryant to announce that we’re bringing HOPE Inside financial counseling and coaching to our City employees. John has brought so much good in the world of financial empowerment, and we’re thrilled to continue to strengthen Operation HOPE’s presence in Memphis.

Remembering Ralph White: Like so many of you, I was shocked to learn last weekend of the sudden passing of Rev. Ralph White of Bloomfield Full Gospel Baptist Church in South Memphis. I’ve known Rev. White for 25 years, and he was always a source of frank dialogue, encouragement, and advice about how to move Memphis forward for everyone. I hope you’ll join me in praying for his family and his church family.

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