(Editor's Note: Each year, Arkansas Business partners with the Arkansas Municipal League to present the Trendsetter City awards, which recognize exceptional initiatives underway in municipalities across the state. Large, medium and small-sized cities were honored in six categories: Diversity and Inclusion; Education/Workforce Development; Infrastructure and Water; Public Works/Environmental and Green Management; Technology and Security; and Tourism Development/Creative Culture. Below is one winner's story. For more, click here.)
Winner • 20,000 or Greater
Mayor: Marco McClendon
In a summer jobs program Friday session, students, in collaboration with a local retailer, bagged up and distributed PPE supplies not only to educators in West Memphis but to all of Crittenden County.
West Memphis initiated its first Youth Empowerment Summer Jobs program in 2018. Waylaid by COVID, the program has returned with the continuing challenge to allow students 16-18 to enter the workforce early, with the goal of boosting self-esteem, reducing crime, helping youth earn money and also developing the valuable skills they need to help the community during the summer months. Ultimately the goal is to build successful young people who may return home after college to further contribute to the community and complete the work they started.
Antonia Williams, one of the first students hired in the Youth Empowerment Summer Jobs Program in 2018, was placed at the local library and did so well she was offered a part-time job and then full-time employment after she graduated high school.
Seventeen city departments teamed to offer students experience in job shadowing and work from Monday-Thursday. Fridays are for developmental courses in topics like resume building and conflict resolution. Session partners include Arkansas State Mid-South, the West Memphis School District, the New York Institute of Technology and Teen Moneybox. A unique feature of the program is that it is partially led by students. It is cost effective based on the volunteer labor and students benefit in experience, leadership skills, problem solving and time management.