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EmployIndy uses basketball to re-engage unemployed and disconnected young adults back into the workforce

Posted: 5:38 AM, Apr 08, 2019
Updated: 2019-04-08 20:54:01Z
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Hiring Hoosiers is a new initiative from RTV6 that works to connect Hoosiers to employment opportunities, career development resources, training programs and educational paths. In our Hiring Hoosiers reports we are taking a closer look at barriers to employment and things that get in the way of people getting the jobs they need to support themselves and their families. For more information, visit HiringHoosiers.com. See new stories weekdays at 6 a.m. on RTV6!

INDIANAPOLIS — Hiring Hoosiers is an RTV6 initiative that works to provide you with development resources to create strong Indiana communities. EmployIndy shares this goal as it works to connect Hoosiers with job resources through community partnerships.

One of EmployIndy's partnerships is using a popular pastime to find the next generation of skilled and educated workers.

Basketball is Tyrrelle Walker's passion. The skilled athlete played for a junior college in Michigan after graduating in 2016 from Lawrence Central High School. Last summer, he left school and came back to Indy.

"There is a lot of kids out here getting in trouble, doing bad things," says Walker.

For Walker, he found a positive light when he stopped by his local Boys & Girls Club to play some basketball.

"When I stepped in here my eyes opened, and I was like, hey, I can do this, I can do that, I was like oh wow thank you, I appreciate it," says Walker.

At the Finish Line Boys & Girls Club on the far east side, Walker was connected to education, housing, and job resources, thanks to the partnerships of EmployIndy.

"We have roughly 30,000 youth, from 16 to 24 years old in our region that has either dropped from high school or graduated but not on a career path," says Rodney Francis, Senior Director of Opportunity Youth Services for EmployIndy. "If we can figure out a way to re-engage them, and set them off on those paths, and earn those certifications and degrees to acquire those middle skills jobs, it will help our region."

EmployIndy is partnering with the Boys and Girls Club to use basketball as a hook to pivot these young men and women to get them to score a job, even possibly a career.

In May of 2018, EmployIndy used their extensive network of community-based organizations to create the Pivot Re-Engagement Center as an initiative to recruit young people into the youth employment system. Pivot works with the Boys & Girls Club of Indianapolis, CAFE, the human services agency for the far east side region, and Warren Township's adult basic education program.

Let's try it to see if it will work," says Francis. "And man, did it work. I mean, as of January of this year we have recruited, registered shall I say, roughly 890 young people to come for open gym, and engage with our refs."

Erik Davenport has experience working in the criminal justice system and now works as the director of the Pivot Re-Engagement Center.

"In basketball or in life or sports or in our community, little things can turn into an argument, and an argument can turn into a shooting," explains Davenport. "I try to do is use every incident here, whether it be a foul, an argument, a disagreement, as a teachable moment."

Davenport works with these young adults both on and off the court through this program.

"Basketball has given us the ability to touch all kinds of young men, some are very different than others, but they all like the game of basketball," explains Davenport. "We work really hard on what their barriers are. Is it your driver's license? Is it your criminal record? Is it your, you know, what is your focus? So once we find out what an individuals focus is or what their desires are, we try to move them in that direction through a step process of education first, then training and a continued mentoring throughout the process."

The Pivot Re-Engagement Center is an open door policy. Davenport says they try to work with anyone in the community between the ages of 16 to 24 to help them physically, mentally and financially.

"Normal operating hours during school time is 10 am to, and that is a targeted time for individuals who are not working, who may not be involved in school, so those are perfect hours for us to work with those individuals," says Davenport. "And when school is out, and we have summer programming, then we do 7 in the evening to 11 pm, that keeps them off the street and gives them an opportunity to get with them in the summertime hours when we have the high crime rates."

The Pivot Re-Engagement Center at the Finish Line Boys & Girls Club at 3870 North Post Road serves hot lunches, and basketball is free. Young adults interested in playing basketball will fill out a small questionnaire for general information.
Walker is now a ref for the Pivot Re-Engagement Center at this club.

"Kids like me need this," states Walker. "Getting them off the street, getting them into school, figuring out what they want to do with their life."

It's a program that has given the 21-year-old the courage and motivation along with the skills to pursue his career and life goals.

"I want to get back in college, finish my career," says Walker. "I want to be able to get a barbershop when I am done playing basketball."

EmployIndy: https://employindy.org
CAFÉ: https://www.cafeindy.org
Pivot Re-Engagement Center: http://bgcindy.org/ [bgcindy.org]