Hope for the youth in Durham


Jessica McQuaig, a17-year-old intern at MDC and resident of Durham, is all smiles as she stands next to her cubical. The Made in Durham program, which will launch in early January, has set an ambitious goal to help more youth gain employment. (Staff photo by Sheila Rosier)

Jessica McQuaig, a17-year-old intern at MDC and resident of Durham, is all smiles as she stands next to her cubical. The Made in Durham program, which will launch in early January, has set an ambitious goal to help more youth gain employment. (Staff photo by Sheila Rosier)

According to information from the 2006-2010 U.S. Census Bureau, and U.S. Census Bureau, 2010 American Community Survey, there were 44,000, 14-to-24-year-olds in Durham.

A report called, “Disconnected Youth in the Research Triangle: An Ominous Problem Hidden in Plain Sight,” was conducted six years ago for the North Carolina GlaxoSmithKline Foundation.

It concluded that roughly 40 percent of Durham’s youth and young adults are not on-track to complete high school…and gain employment by the time they are 25-years-old.

Durham has between 4,500 and 6,000 disconnected youth. 

A new initiative, Made in Durham, will educate and train youth to improve their employability. Although it is still in the planning stages, they have conducted research and included community and corporate stake-holders to design a program that will help youth who are on-track, behind, or disconnected.

“We work in communities, with communities, to help community leaders research and learn about the real problem, the real situations, conditions in their communities that they might not really realize and to look at the data, the numbers…and then we help them find the solution that they think is right for their community,” said Richard Hart, communications director at MDC.

As Hart accounts the history of MDC and what the Made in Durham project signifies, he sits comfortably in a conference room with 22-year-old Ivanna Gonzalez, a 2013-2014 Aurty Fellow with MDC, and tells her to chime in as she has been working on the project.

MDC is a non-profit organization that has been around for 47 years. Hart says that the key to improving people’s social economic success is education. “We connect people’s needs with the community’s economic needs,” said Hart. “We do research, we identify problems, we help people find solutions, but we also help them implement those solutions on the ground, and a lot of places don’t do both.”

Made In Durham: Building an Education-to-Career System.

According to Gonzalez, one of the bigger important pieces of it is that the Triangle and Durham area are thriving economic regions. They are in the top 35 in job growth in the country. But Gonzalez notes that when you look at the numbers for young people ages 14-to-24 in this region, the economic reality does not match up.

“Young people are not fairing as well as they could be and should be, given that they live in this thriving area,” says Gonzalez. He says it’s really about giving young people the equality and the opportunity that is here.

Jessica McQuaig, a 17-year-old intern at MDC, walks into the conference room with a stylish black and white houndstooth hat.

Hart says that the reason they hire younger staff to assist in the program is because the program is geared towards the youth, and who better identifies with the youth than a youth themselves?

Born and raised in Durham, McQuaig is the youngest out of five siblings, and is a junior at Northern High School in Durham. She interned at Youth Opportunity, which is known as YO: Durham.

“A friend suggested the program to me because she attended the program last year…I went to the office and got a form and read about it and it sounded like a really great opportunity for me because it was really hard for me to find a job,” said McQuaig.

She said she applied to four different local restaurants and grocery stores.

“I went to three places in person inquiring about a job but all of them said I have to apply online. Applying online is impersonal and all I got was the runaround.  It didn’t help that I was under 18 either,” added McQuaig.

When she got the YO: Durham form, she brought it home for her to sign.

McQuaig says that she and her mother liked that they taught business etiquette and how to write a resume.

“What I liked about the program is that they teach us how to interview, how to act in a work environment,” says McQuaig. “They help us find internships and therefore find jobs and experience, and that’s what really attracted me to this program.”

She says she plans on going to college and already has some colleges in sight. She aspires to go to school for webpage development and graphic design.

MDC categorizes the youth in Durham into three sections: 60 percent of the youth are on-track, 25 percent are behind, and 15 percent are disconnected. Made in Durham’s goal is to create a path that will have the youth have equal opportunities to become great “citizens, workers life-long learners and parents” in Durham.

People who are interested in the progress of the initiative can stay informed through their website: http://www.mdcinc.org/projects/made-durham

 

NCCU Staff Writer


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