Project 50, No. 2: Boys & Girls Clubs Technical Training Center
Project 50 is a weekly feature on a Mid-South nonprofit that will go on through 2014. I hope that you decide to get involved with at least one organization you hear about this year and put your love for Memphis to work. In this week's Project 50 post, I’m focusing on just one of the many programs provided by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Memphis, the Technical Training Center.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Memphis (BGCM) provide extracurricular programs for kids up to about age 16 at each of their seven local branches. The educational, arts, recreational, and mentoring programs make a big difference in the lives of thousands of young Memphians.
Garden wall mural.
The Technical Training Center (TTC) takes the mission of BGCM to the next level. Young people face a difficult conundrum: they can't get a job without experience, but they can't get experience without first landing a job. The TTC provides students ages 16-22 with that invaluable experience and training. It’s all about giving these young people a way to support themselves.
Juice Plus is the primary sponsor of the TTC building and program, in additional to many other individuals and companies.
Recently, Claudine Nayan, Director of Special Events for the BGCM, took me on a tour of the TTC (which is around the corner from the Stax Museum). First we went to the logistics lab, where students learn about everything from warehouse management to how to drive a forklift. At the automotive lab a few doors down, a small group watched as their instructor explained how to get rid of cloudy headlights. Also on the lesson plans: how to change oil, service engines, and other auto repairs.
The Logisitics Lab.
There's a commercial kitchen and dining area at the TTC as well, where students in the culinary program learn how to work in either the front-of-house (serving, catering) or back-of-house (cooking, food prep) food service operations.
There are also several classrooms where students can use computers, learn how to create resumes, do mock job interviews, and even learn to drive. Having a valid license is a basic requirement for many jobs, but because some of the students' families don't own cars, earning that license can be basically impossible. One of the TTC's goals this year is to procure a car for students to use for onsite driver’s ed and the DMV driving test.
The most interesting part to me is how students get real world experience by helping the run the TTC. When the BGCM receives a donation, say, several hundred pairs of sneakers from Nike, the logistics program students are the ones who catalog, organize, and distribute those shoes to the club branches. The vans used for such projects are serviced by the automotive program students. Every month, the TTC hosts a fundraising dinner that the culinary program students manage under the supervision of a guest chef.
There's also a hydroponic garden which provides much of the produce that the kitchen uses, what is left is taken to farmer's markets around town and sold. When it's not winter like it is in this picture, the greenhouse and gardens are overflowing.
The kicker: due to generous donations from companies and individuals, students pay only $10/year to join the TTC, and they are paid for time they spend working there.
Culinary program pride.
Every one of the programs that I saw at the TTC were laser focused on the goal of getting young people jobs. In the last few years (TTC opened in 2006) 100 percent of students either found employment or enrolled in college upon graduation from the program. Also, this Center is the only one of its kind in the country. There's a positive "only in Memphis" for ya.
Official mission statement (via bgca.org): "To enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens."
Biggest annual events: Steak'n'Burger Dinner in April, Golf Classic tournament in June, Tennis invitational in August, and Toy Bash in December (go to this website for more information).
How you can help:
– Sign up for an automatic monthly donation, which this year will be matched dollar for dollar.
– Buy tickets and attend a fundraising event, or if you own a company, sponsor an event.
– Volunteer to help with homework, serve meals, and spend time with the kids. Call 901-278-2947.