70 young people in Tallahassee just received a new opportunity to succeed with the latest graduation of TEMPO, a program aimed at improving the education and job prospects of disconnected youth. As an All-America City, Tallahassee has made its mark with many innovative programs, and TEMPO is one that has shown great success in its short lifespan of four years.
The founder of TEMPO, Dr. Kimball Thomas, is a former high school principal who saw a lot of kids dropping out in the 9th or 10th grade. “I started walking through the neighborhoods and asking people about their needs. People were looking for better opportunity—to finish their schooling, get training and get a job.”
TEMPO is a “community engagement and public safety youth program to facilitate education, workforce training and vocational experience. The initiative seeks to identify, engage, and reconnect Disconnected Youth to educational and employment opportunities.” The program focuses on the city’s Promise Zone, a lower-income area that covers about a fourth of the city.
Young people between the ages of 16-24 enrolling in TEMPO are assisted with GED completion, apprenticeship and training and job placement. The city partners with a number of nonprofit organizations, government agencies and businesses to place students in jobs, with about half now earning above minimum wage.
“We all had a chance to make our mark,” said Dr. Thomas. “I hate to see these kids not make theirs. I believe that indeed these young people are our future. This program gives them a chance to reinvent themselves.”
So far over 1,500 young people have engaged in TEMPO programs, nearly half of the population of disconnected youth in the city’s Promise Zone. GED graduations have grown from 12-15 students in the first year to 70 in the fourth graduation that took place in late June. Dr. Thomas’ goal is to expand the program to the entire city, add wrap-around services and add early literacy. “When I was a principal I could look at third grade literacy scores and tell you which kids would get to ninth grade and which would drop out, said Dr. Thomas. “So we need to get to these kids as early as possible.”
Tallahassee’s mayor, John Dailey, is proud of the new program and its connection to the community. “The TEMPO program is a great response to what the community wanted and needed most,” said Mayor Dailey. “And we’re proud to have engagement from many businesses and nonprofits.”