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Reducing Violence by Expanding Pathways

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Guest Blog By Adam McClun, KC Common Good

As Klassie Alcine and I witnessed a series of high-profile incidents of violence against Black people,[1] summer youth employment decreasing by nearly a quarter largely due to the pandemic,[2] and over the past year Kansas City experiencing the most violence on record,[3] we desperately knew action was needed. In early 2021, Working For Youth formed from a collaborative impact strategy between KC Common Good, Hire KC, and Entrepreneurship KC. Over the next six months, 33 community organizations were engaged to recruit youth and employment opportunities. From urban school districts to black and brown business networks, neighborhood grassroot nonprofits to regional employers.

Applications went live in early April with more than 1,100 youth applying in less than two months. The huge demand for youth employment spurred $600,000 raised from within the community, with the majority of funds paid to youth for their work. Eighty-nine Kansas City area employers stepped up, each welcoming between one to 20 youth. From June through August, 333 east Kansas City youth, ages 14 to 18 years old, completed paid work experiences.

At the core of Working For Youth is increasing employment opportunities for youth living in historically marginalized communities. I was struck at what Marcellus Howell, a 15-year-old East High School student, said while reflecting on his first internship, “I didn’t know anything about being an intern at all, but I kind of just figured that was for good kids.” We must accelerate the employment of youth from historically overlooked marginalized communities.

Believing that internships expand career pathways and set up youth for long-term success, we challenged employers to expand inclusive pipelines that identify and leverage this emerging generation’s talent. While paid employment is critically important in rebalancing wealth, so are wrap around supports done in tandem. Community partners have been essential to the initiative by pairing jobs with one-on-one coaching, the Agile Work Profiler, financial literacy education, and trauma informed practices. Specifically, the Agile Work Profiler has added significant value by prompting thoughtful conversations concerning vocation and giftedness between youth and coaches.

Partnership with The DeBruce Foundation has accelerated the vision of Working For Youth and helped bring scale to the initiative. The Foundation’s expertise in data and evaluation has catalyzed a higher bar of accountability and excellence within the program partners. As KC Common Good collaboratively implements innovative solutions that expand pathways to prevent violence, we identified youth employment and intervention as key solutions for Kansas City. Learning from approaches in other cities, including Omaha,[4] Chicago[5], and Philadelphia,[6] Working For Youth is showing early signs of success in Kansas City. Yet much work remains. Decades of marginalization and unequitable systems require sustained, collective work.

[1] George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks, Jacob Blake, Daniel Prude, and others.


[3] 176 homicides in 2020 according to the KCPD, which is a 17 percent increase from the previous high in recorded history (151 homicides in both 2019 and 2017).




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