2023 All-America City – Charlotte, NC

Over the last decade, Charlotte has seen tremendous growth and consistently ranks as one of the top-growing cities in the U.S. People are attracted to Charlotte because of its healthy, growing economy with thriving finance, healthcare, and professional sections. However, rapid growth brings social, economic, and public safety challenges. The City of Charlotte recognizes the importance of being innovative in its approach to addressing these challenges and is intentionally engaging residents in building Charlotte’s future.

The Mayor’s Youth Employment Program (MYEP)

School-to-career systems in the U.S. remain poorly aligned with 21st century requirements. Fifty-three percent of U.S. jobs are middle skill, meaning they require some form of education and training beyond a high school diploma, but less than a four-year college degree. Yet only 43% of U.S. workers are trained at this level. The MYEP program focuses on providing youth with opportunities to obtain the skills and training required for modern career readiness.

MYEP is the largest producer of paid summer internships in the Charlotte-Metro region, providing traditional, virtual and hybrid internships, as well as pre-apprenticeships and a best-in-class Job & Career Readiness Training (JCRT) program so youth have equitable opportunities to explore the world of work, build social capital and enhance economic mobility.

MYEP serves all Title 1, Priority, and Focus Area Schools, districtwide in Charlotte, making it the largest program serving disconnected youth in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. Participants are offered paid opportunities in 12-16 different industries; partners in these industries offer paid work-based learning opportunities that help youth develop career goals, stay in school, achieve academically, and enhance social skills that enable them to succeed in life.

Over the past three years, 1,659 youth have been trained and 765 have gone through an immersive workplace experience through the MYEP. 69% of participants are youth of color, and 60% are women. MYEP is creating a talent pipeline for the City of Charlotte and other businesses in the Charlotte area and is setting up youth for successful futures.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD): Community Services Division

Youth from disadvantaged communities may lack positive role models and guidance which results in making decisions that can lead to criminal behavior. CMPD’s Community Services Division is taking an innovative approach to remove barriers which often leads to the inability of youth to have a connection or relationship with law enforcement. As a result, our local youth are shifting how they engage with law enforcement and recognizing the positive impact of making good decisions.

CMPD Youth Diversion Program: In 2012, CMPD created and implemented the Youth Diversion Program in response to disproportionate minority contacts and the school-to-prison pipeline. The pre-arrest diversion program’s goal is to break the cycle of youth justice system involvement and mitigate an arrest record for youth who commit first time misdemeanor offenses. Youth participate in up to eight hours of interpersonal skills workshops designed to address specific areas of concern as indicated by an assessment tool.

Since the program’s inception in 2012, juvenile arrest has decreased by 46%, racial and ethnic disparities have decreased by 45%, and 90% of youth do not reoffend.

REACH: CMPD also offers the REACH (Respect, Engage, Accountability, Character, and Honesty) Academy, a complementary program that provides leadership opportunities and educational seminars for younger individuals who show potentially early signs of trouble but have not yet committed any crimes. The program aims to rehabilitate participants and teach them positive behaviors, and it has been successful in maintaining positive relationships between police officers and youth in the Charlotte area.

Youth Envision Academy: Youth, along with 15 CMPD mentors, come together to envision the future of their lives and Charlotte during this 8-week program. Upon completion of the program, youth present their lessons learned and a vision of their future as well as the future of Charlotte. 

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations: Community Affairs Division

The Community Affairs division develops, implements, and supports programs and initiatives that advance its mission to empower, collaborate, engage, and promote opportunities to create positive outcomes. Their primary focus areas are police-community relations, engagement and outreach, diversity, equity and inclusion, youth programs, partnerships, and community harmony.

The Peer Club Program and Peer Mediation Program are the two core youth programs led by Community Affairs. The goal is to give young people the platform to express themselves in safe and open conversational-style sessions. These sessions cover conflict resolution, communication skills, civic engagement, and leadership. It is designed to be flexible enough to shift, based on current events or concerns.

Some topics covered include:

  • Conflict Resolution Style
  • Reframing discussions
  • Parent-child relationships
  • Consequences of decisions/choices
  • Interpersonal relationships
  • Substance usage
  • Boundaries

Sessions are kicked off with group guidelines and agreement from participants, allowing the space for mutual buy-in. Field trips are often incorporated into the programs and summer events are held to teach the youth about local government, civic leadership, career readiness, education, the arts and more.

To make the youth programs accessible to everyone, transportation to and from program activities is provided and staff take time out of their personal schedules to serve as mentors.

The Community Affairs Division has received positive feedback from school administrators as they have seen significant improvement and reduction of in-school suspensions, truancy, and academics amongst participating youth.

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