“All the children are well,” this was the echoing statement made in the announcement of “Year of the Youth.” Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens’ newest initiative aimed at providing the adolescents and young adults of Atlanta with mentorship and job opportunities by Atlanta- based businesses, both small and large.
Dickens was joined on stage by local leaders, such as Dr. Lisa Herring, superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools, Kelli Stewart, co-founder of Lead Center of Youth, and Janean Ellis, senior director of youth engagement for the mayoral office. Other civic and social leaders familiar to residents of Atlanta were in attendance to add their remarks on the new initiative.
Youth empowerment has been on the forefront of Dickens’ agenda. The City of Atlanta provided $4 million in a summer youth employment program in 2022, which employed over 3,000 young people.
The anticipation and energy of the room turned the mayoral press conference into a carnival of excitement, “We said this was a press conference, but it’s a pep rally for our kids,” Ellis said. Approximately 500 people, made up of Atlanta’s most recognizable leaders from across many different industries and vocations huddled into the atrium.
The initiative will also focus on raising graduation rates, financial literacy, increasing access to healthy foods, increasing stable housing options, reduction in crime rates, maintaining open parks and recreation centers with after-school programs. There will also be a reported $1 million going towards the Youth Development Grant Program to nonprofits that assist Atlanta’s children and teenagers, which would be distributed by the Urban League. Administrative costs will be covered by the Arthur Blank Foundation.
“We can, we will, and we must do better by our youth in Atlanta,” said Nancy Flake Johnson, CEO of the Urban League of Greater Atlanta.
But this isn’t a one-stop shop, there will be multiple award cycles in the upcoming weeks, Mayor Dickens announced.
Coming from a year of turbulence within the adolescent community of Atlanta, this latest initiative is not only a promising one, but greatly wanted as well, with the vision to create a community filled with bright young adults contributing towards the greater good.
The ultimate goal for the initiative is to remove barriers and empower children, and young adults. When the initiative is successful, then we will have improved the trajectory of young Atlantan lives.
“This is a group project and it will take all of our collective action to ensure Atlanta is the best place to raise a child,” Janean Ellis told The Atlanta Voice.
The old saying is true, children are our future, teach them well, and let them lead the way.