Op-ed by Miles Hammock, Social Media Intern
Around this time last year, I had a summer term of college under my belt, and I was wrapping up an internship that revealed my hometown in a different light. At that time, I was confident and ready to take on the world and fully submerge myself in being a black millennial in Downtown Nashville.
At that time, I realized how much home had to offer me. In the same respect, I was angry that I was not aware of these opportunities until it was too late. Growing up it was always a stigma of “You have to be good at sports to really make it out of here”. I often felt overlooked because I knew I would be great in my own right. I often wondered when would anybody else notice. I felt like choosing to attend college out of state would give me a chance a to flourish on my own.
During my first year at Tennessee State University, I was tested beyond imagination. I had to get accustomed to being in a melting pot of millennials in a rising city tailored just for us. As well as indulging in a university full of African American millennials who eventually want to become successful. We are all in the booming city of Nashville, Tennessee looking to make the most of the opportunity our university provided for us. TSU has been an iron sharpens iron environment for me.
Being in Nashville I get the best of southern hospitality. At first, I was not very receptive to constructive criticism. It was hard for me to receive because these were people I barely knew. I happened to get out of that quickly once I realized those critics were people with credentials, the kind of credentials that I was working towards. These were my colleagues and instructors that I could tell really cared about making people better.
“If I grew up having a vision of everything my city is missing, would I have even left?”
Life outside of school in Nashville is a beast itself. I must say there are so many places to be young and have a good time. Whether it is a sporting event, nightlife, or indulging brunch the most important Sunday Fun-day Meal, there are few dull moments.
Although Nashville has provided me an exceptional change of environment, I still believe that my home could be just as great. That is one reason I chose to come back home and do another stint with The Madison County Chamber. I wanted to do a personal of assessment of what my city is up to and if it is making any progress to attract people like me.
At the beginning of the summer, I posed myself this question: What would make me come back to Indiana to reside permanently? In better words, what is my home missing to attract people just like me?
Honestly, I would love to see more places for young black professionals to openly interact. There are not many places I see my demographic reflected. During my internship, I attended several events around the city of Anderson. Out all of those I was the only African American Male there from age 18-25. That is a problem here. Being a professional is not showcased as being enough in this city, it is shown as being a plan B.
If I would have been trapped in Anderson for the whole summer, I would be miserable. When I had to look locally to have a good time, I was out of luck. That is what I longed for all summer. Just a place to unwind without having to drive far or spend a good amount of money. I believe these simple things would keep people my generation around. Appealing to live, work, and play would promote our productivity.
In reflection, I cannot help but think “If I grew up having a vision of everything my city is missing, would I have even left?” I pose this question to myself, lighting a fire in me as a leader. How can I get in the trenches to help a child who is me today?
At the end of the day, if you gave this millennial a voice…He would tell you, “I would love to stay and help, but right now I need a lot more. I need to catch up on the experiences that were not provided for me here at home. You must understand that me being selfish at this moment is not out of spite nor hatred. My personal growth is directly beneficial to your revival, and I truly mean I am grinding for you, Anderson, Indiana.”
This is the first of a new series of articles from the Madison County Chamber. The purpose is to bring to you brief perspectives on a range of issues outside the central functions of the Chamber, primarily larger social issues tied to the vital role of the business community as corporate citizen.
This first PRIMEIME installment asks you to consider the issue of Early Childhood Education in Madison County and the vital need for fund development, policy development, and program support from business and all sectors of our community. According to a 2010 U.S. Chamber of Commerce report, “To keep America competitive and strong, the business community must be actively engaged on issues related to our nation’s educational system as a means to ensure an educated citizenry of self-sufficient, lifelong learners who have the skills needed to thrive in the global workplace, today and in the future.”
The U.S. Chamber report goes on to underscore the importance of early childhood education and the need for children’s access to high quality programs that include a strong family engagement component, academic preparation, strong accountability measures, and high quality standards. With these factors in mind, then, how are we doing in Madison County? Well, meet ALICE.
ALICE (Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed) focuses on social and financial issues related to households above the federal poverty guidelines ($23,000 annual income for a family of four), but less than what is needed to meet basic needs. For this group of working families, for example, rainy day savings are impossible because they spend every penny on survival. Few have liquid assets of any type. As of 2014 in Madison County, 21% of our 52,650 households were ALICE. Another 16% were living at or below federal poverty guidelines. Statewide, fewer than 4% of four-year olds are enrolled in state-funded pre-K programs, and thousand of these children are on lottery system waiting lists. These few statistics do not bode well for the future of our state, or for Madison County.
And so, what can the business community do to help?
First, there is an opportunity to provide financial help to local public or private quality pre-K programs. Second, the United Way of Madison County is an ardent supporter of the maintenance and expansion of such programs, but scarcely has the resources to fully meet the demand. The national Chamber recommends that business use its influence and voice at the policy level. The lottery system that has thousands of pre-K children waiting in line, for example, needs to be fixed. Although Hoosiers generally support quality pre-K programs for all children, our state legislators need to hear from the business community on the issue. Obviously, this is not meant to discourage support of specific local programs, or to our great United Way. Rather, it is intended to help Madison County and our state meet the demand at the massive level at which the demand presents itself.
The investment in our children is an investment in our future, and it’s personal, too. After all, as someone once said, a high-spirited tri-cyclist is a terrible thing to waste.
Primus Mootry is a weekly columnist for The Anderson Herald Bulletin and chairman of the board of The Anderson Impact Center.
Brandon Boynton, a high school senior at Pendleton Heights High School in Pendleton, Indiana, is a recipient of the 14th annual National Federation of Independent Business’ Young Entrepreneur Award.
These awards are given out by the NFIB’s Young Entrepreneur Foundation and are designed to inspire and develop the entrepreneurial spirit in high school students. This year, Visa has stepped in to match a local marketing firm, Element212’s, $1000 contribution, allowing Boynton to receive a $2000 scholarship toward his post-secondary education at IUPUI.
“Element212 was built from the entrepreneurial spirit. Our goal through supporting the NFIB’s Young Entrepreneur Foundation is to encourage our next generation of entrepreneurial leaders in Indiana. We want them to tangibly feel the support from other local business owners," states Todd Rimer, CEO of Element212.
Boynton was one of five high school senior entrepreneurs in Indiana to be recognized by the scholarship program. He is the owner of BullyBox, a mobile app designed to allow students to safely and anonymously reports acts of bullying or other school safety concerns, while simultaneously allowing the reporter to refrain from becoming directly involved in the incident.
During college, Boynton plans on continuing to provide his expertise in development of “apps that make a difference” via his company, MostBeastlyStudios, LLC and intends on pursuing a product-based startup in the near future.
“I embrace being an entrepreneur by working hard,” says Boynton. “After I graduate college, I plan to continue to be an entrepreneur … I don’t want to take a job; I want to make jobs.”
The NFIB YEA scholarship is open to seniors in high school that own or operate their own small business. For applicants to be considered, students were required to write an essay regarding their current entrepreneurial endeavors as well as their future goals. Alongside the essay, applicants are also put through an interview stage conducted by NFIB members.
Element212 is a proud supporter of the National Federation of Independent Business’ Young Entrepreneur Foundation.