‘Project Indy’ created to connect more teens to jobs

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Mayor Joe Hogsett is fulfilling one of his campaign promises by launching “Project Indy," a jobs program for teens.

Dozens of partner agencies and businesses gathered Wednesday morning at Teenworks, a youth employment agency, for the announcement. It comes two days after Indianapolis received $2 million from the White House and Department of Labor for summer jobs and meals programs.

“As I was once told, in the summer, if kids have got nothing to do, they rarely do nothing,” Hogsett said from the podium.

Hogsett campaigned on reducing crime during the summer months by tackling youth unemployment.

“By offering teens the opportunity to earn money, by offering teens the opportunity to gain life skills, we will be keeping them engaged, while helping prepare them for the next chapter of their life,” Hogsett said.

The partner agencies at the announcement today will work together to get more teens connected to jobs.

Nina Edmonds-Edwards is now a senior at Butler University. Years ago, she went to Teenworks to get her first job.

“It really gives you the idea to know that your dreams can come true,” Edmonds-Edwards said. “No matter if you’re doing bad in school and you’re not making good grades, you have the willpower to turn it around and the drive to do so, if that’s what you choose.”

Edmonds-Edwards also learned basic life skills, making “adult” decisions, before becoming an adult.

Navigating government agencies, like the DMV, in order to get a license at 15 years old was part of her job education.

Edmond-Edwards says she also learned it was better to open up a bank account instead of cashing her checks at a payday loan location like she’d seen many in her community do. It’s a bank account she still has.

“Getting your checks, getting your money and spending your money and making bad decisions and learning from your decisions, all of those things help prepare you for the real world,” Edmond-Edwards said.

By working as one umbrella organization, “Project Indy” is expected to help one thousand more students each year. The goal is to use the grant to hire at least 1,000 students this year, 2,000 students next year and 5,000 students by 2020.

However, Hogsett did acknowledge progress will be slow.

“The challenges we seek to tackle were not created overnight,” Hogsett said. “They were not created in one year. They were not created in one mayoral term. And they will not be solved in that same period.”

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