Program helps young people gain skills and take control of their future


INDIANAPOLIS — Two years after he found himself behind bars for a crime he committed when he was 18, Jacobey Echols is feeling hopeful for his future.

“They helped me to write out a plan, they gave me the mental courage and the mental strength to push forward,” he said.

Echols is talking about the help he received from Edna Martin Christian Center in the Martindale Brightwood community.

“With this stuff on my background, I can’t work at a good job like I was working at so I have to settle for pennies basically and I’m not doing that. I’d rather figure out another way to go get it,” Echols said.

The center is one of several locations across the city where 16-24-year-olds can take advantage of EmployIndy’s Youth Employment System. It’s called Yes Indy and focuses on helping young adults find a pathway to a promising career.

Yes Indy provides soft skills training, introductions to employers and job fairs to help give participants a foundation.

Kelly Evans, the opportunity youth and re-entry coordinator for Edna Martin says many of the participants are re-entering the community from the criminal justice system or they’ve had a difficult time in traditional school. The goal is to help youth gain employment.

“There is a huge need for this in our community … a lot of times our kids are pushed into traditional fields like you have to go to college in order to gain to make this amount of money, so this helps our kids not feel so pressured and gives them another avenue to learn how to make money,” Evans said.

There’s also Edna Martin’s Earn and Learn Initiative, which allows participants to earn a stipend while learning skills and earning certifications in different fields like logistics, culinary arts and hospitality over four weeks.

“We work on their finances as well as employment to teach them how to manage the money once they start making the money, which is absolutely awesome,” Evans said.

Soon, they will offer training and certifications in audio video technology.

Echols is a singer and rapper with a passion for music. Since he records and directs his own music videos, he was offered an intern position at Edna Martin in the audio visual tech department. He’s now working to help launch the training program.

“I was excited because it was everything I wanted to do; we’ve got the green screen, the cameras, the stand [and] the studio lights. We have everything,” Echols said.

The program’s goal is to have participants trained and ready to work in 14 weeks. All services are free including the high school equivalency classes, job training and employment and financial coaching.

There’s training and certifications available for jobs that are in demand like healthcare, information technology, advanced manufacturing, logistics and construction.

You can get started by texting the word “connect” to 317-597-8068.

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