Tupelo launches summer youth jobs program

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The city will use $35,600 from its rainy day fund to launch a summer youth jobs program for 20 teens.
Called Plant A Seed, the initiative was spearheaded by Ward 7 City Councilman Willie Jennings to put at-risk teens to work. He said it will keep adolescents off the streets and out of trouble while helping them gain real-life work skills.
It runs from June 1 through July 31 and is a collaborative effort between the city’s Human Resources Department and other departments in which the teens will work. In addition to their jobs, the youth will attend seminars and get one-on-one mentoring from city employees.
But not all council members agreed with the plan.
“The city of Tupelo currently hires over 100 youth for jobs in various departments each summer,” said Ward 3 Councilman Jim Newell. “I don’t feel the city of Tupelo can use over $35,000 of our rainy day funds to support summer jobs when we’ve had no raises, and firefighters had to take a work reduction schedule.”
Municipal budget constraints prevented raises for the city’s roughly 400 full-time employees. They also forced the Fire Department to slash overtime hours in an effort to save money.
Both Newell and Ward 6 Councilman Mike Bryan praised Jennings for his initiative, but they recently voted against the plan because it borrowed money from the city’s rainy day fund.
But the money’s well spent if it helps even one youth, said Ward 5 Councilman Jonny Davis, who had served on a committee to organize the program.
“Department heads across the city are willing to work with this program and are putting in a lot of effort,” Davis said. “If we can save that one child, I think it’s well worth it.”
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@journalinc.com.