Nashville's Mayor Megan Barry announces the 'Opportunity NOW' youth job portal at Pearl-Cohn High School.

Mayor Megan Barry Announces ‘Opportunity NOW’ Youth Job Portal

Pearl-Cohn Magnet High School student Barbara Stennis knew exactly what she was searching for as she scrolled through thousands of summer jobs on a computer at her school.

“If there are any internships in the music area, I’m going to apply for them,” the smiling 18-year-old senior said Friday.

The young musician’s search comes just months after Mayor Megan Barry laid the groundwork for a summer job initiative for Nashville’s youth. On Friday Barry announced the launch of the Opportunity NOW portal, created to connect local youths age 14-24 with jobs and paid internships.

The move comes on the heels of students last year gathering to brainstorm how to tackle Nashville’s recent rise in youth violence. That meeting, organized by Barry, was aimed at getting input from the city’s youth.

“We asked kids what they needed from the adults in their lives, and what you all told us is that you needed hope, opportunity and jobs … something to keep you busy,” Barry said to Stennis and about two dozen of her classmates Friday. “It’s really exciting … and the paid part is really exciting.”

Mayor Megan Barry assists a student with signing up on the Opportunity NOW job portal.

In 2015, 20 people age 19 and younger died in criminal homicides in Nashville — 10 times the number of El Paso, Texas; five times more than in Denver; four times higher than Louisville, Ky.; and double that of Oakland, Calif. All but three died as a result of gun violence.

That number decreased in 2016 to 12, but Barry recently said that is still 12 too many.

Now thanks to the work from Barry’s office, the Nashville Career Advancement Center and donors from across the city, Barry said, the Opportunity Now portal is open for Nashville’s youth.

“It’s about putting our kids, you all, into paid meaningful jobs and internships this summer,” she said. “For some of you this might be your first job.”

As of Friday, students had the opportunity to apply for 7,500 summer jobs and internships. Barry said her hope is the number of opportunities increases to 10,000 in the coming months.

NCAC and Opportunity NOW's Youth Services Director, Ellen Zinkiewicz, speaks at the portal announcement.

“It’s a collection of opportunities, it’s got all kinds of things,” Ellen Zinkiewicz, director of Youth Community Service for the Nashville Career Advancement Center, said of the portal. “Come back to the site often, keep checking especially over the next several weeks. … (We) really are hoping over the next several weeks there will be more there.”

After the announcement, Barry and Zinkiewicz, joined by others including juvenile court Judge Sheila Calloway and school faculty, showed students how they could upload their resumes online to apply for jobs.

A student views career videos on the Opportunity NOW job portal.

“It’s pretty simple,” Stennis said after Barry showed her how to navigate the page. “They have all the jobs right here, you can just stroll through the pages.”

Stennis said she thinks the new initiative will help her peers avoid becoming involved in violence and said she hopes they take advantage of the new job opportunities.

“I feel like a lot of kids don’t have money so some may steal or rob from others,” Stennis said. “I think this will keep them out of trouble and help them stay focused on something important.”

(Article originally posted by The Tennessean on March 3, 2017 at 2:44 pm.)

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