TEMPO creating jobs, while changing young lives in Tallahassee

By St. Clair Murraine

Outlook staff writer

   Six month after becoming a participant in Tallahassee Engaged in Meaningful Productivity for Opportunity program that’s intended to help at-risk young people find careers, Brent Moore is looking toward a bright future instead of wandering on the streets of his neighborhood.

Moore and hundreds more like him are participating in TEMPO. Most of them, who have had run-ins with the law, call it a life-changing experience. That, said Kimball Thomas, youth program manager for the city, is the one of the reasons there isn’t any recidivism by TEMPO participants.

“I love it,” said Moore, a 25-year-old who got his a career start in TEMPO six months ago. “At first, I had to learn the work. Over time I learned.”

The City of Tallahassee started the program two years ago in its effort to curb crime among young people. Many of the participants are employed by various city government departments.

In addition, several young adults with troubled pasts are involved in Build Up Tallahassee. The initiative by Mayor John Dailey is intended to provide participants heavy equipment training and help reduce recidivism.

At the same time, it’s creating a workforce for projected road projects.

Moore is working with an underground utility and infrastructure crew. 

 “This opportunity is a great stepping stone where I’m able to go to work every day,” said Moore. “I Have a set schedule, show up to work and get paid.

“This gives me a chance to have something that I can work toward in my life where I could retire and have something to fall back on.”

Emmalyn Lynn, 18, also is living a different life than she did just a year ago. At that time, she was in juvenile detention and completing a program in Graceville. 

She has since earned a GED and is attending classes at Tallahassee Community College while holding down a job with a crew that builds drains.

That’s a huge turnaround for Lynn, who said her mischief included stealing cars and fighting as a run-away.

She was referred to Thomas immediately after her release from the Graceville program. Lynn said she opted for working with the drain crew because she found most female-preferred jobs boring.

“I’m enjoying it a lot,” said Lynn, who has a 1-year-old child. “This is good for me.”

The idea of having a program that serves as a crime deterrent, while teaching young people real-world skills, was first dreamed up by Thomas. He said the idea came to him as he was noticing groups of young people hanging out at the same location daily. 

What he had been seeing was “a recipe for public safety issues, getting arrested and getting in to trouble,” Thomas said.

Thomas began to do some research found that a survey showed that 7,000 disconnected or at-risk youths live in Tallahassee. Thomas found the numbers troubling and immediately got the conversation going that led to TEMPO.

Thomas, a former principal at Rickards High and East Gadsden schools, began to recruits prospects. He went back to the same places where the young people had nothing to do.

“I started on Texas Street with one application in my hand, signing people up,” Thomas said.

He eventually went to areas like Basin, Joe Luis, Saxon and Holton streets – all areas that are labeled “promise zones.”

Xavion Jackson, a 25-year-old who also works with the underground infrastructure crew, said being in TEMPO has given his life meaning.

“Now I see the light,” said Jackson, whose history includes doing five years in prison. “I see a way out.”



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