TEMPO program set to open Southside location

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer

Jaeqwaun Hover could not believe when his high school counselor told him at the start of his senior year that he didn’t have enough credits to graduate.

He pleaded his case, even saying he’d take extra classes to make up the need credit. Nothing worked.

“I’m not going to lie; I cried,” Hover said.

He enrolled in adult education courses in hopes of earning a GED. His life took a different turn midway through the semester when he ran into Kimball Thomas, director of Tallahassee Engage in Meaningful Productivity for Opportunity, commonly known as TEMPO.

Hover, who has also had run-ins with the law, said meeting Thomas changed his life. He has his GED and is holding down a fast-food job.

He wants more.

Kimball Thomas, director of  the city’s TEMPO program, stand outside the Southside location of his office.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine

“I’m a hands-on person,” he said. “I rather to get paid for the job I’m putting in. I’m trying to look for something that I would have a set goal in life. A trade is something that nobody can take away from you. I want to be an entrepreneur and own my own business.”

Hover is the kind of young person that the City Commission set out to reach when it started TEMPO as a diversion for at-risk young people. One of its goals is to impact poverty and quality of life in neighborhoods that have high crime and dropout rates.

Thomas has recruited more than the program’s current 1,091 participants in the three years since it started. He hoped to get even more participants between age 16 to 24 when the city opens a new TEMPO office on the Southside.

A date is still to be announced, but Thomas is optimistic it will open before the end of September. The new office is located in the Towne South Center, less than a quarter mile from where Thomas signed up his first prospect off Texas Street.

Seventy-one graduates of the program have gone on to higher education. Most took a path to Tallahassee Community College, which has a memorandum of understanding to allow participants to attend the junior college.

While most of the participants have had trouble with law enforcement, Thomas boasts that none who has gone through the program has recidivated. 

His expectations are the same as when he was a school teacher and principal at Rickards High School, Thomas said.

“Working with young people and watching them get that ah-ha moment, that’s what you look for in a kid; that ah-ha moment and watch them grow and see how they could just take their lives and take off,” he said. “That’s imbedded in me. I tell them when I first meet them that I’m their principal on the streets. Kids take from that. They like to have an authoritative figure in their lives that they can look up to and that  figure respects them.”

Thomas has no restriction on where he’d go to find prospects for the program. He met Cassie Hayes when she was working at a produce market. 

She told him her story about having to drop out of high school in 11th grade to take care of an ailing relative. Thomas went to work on setting her up to work on getting a GED.

She said she is working two jobs instead of four like she did before joining TEMPO. Her plans are to attend Lively Tech and earn a pharmacy tech degree.

“TEMPO has opened doors for me,” she said. “It gave me  a better outlook on life because I thought I wasn’t going to be able to do anything.”

Thomas beams when he talks about his new digs that will soon open on the Southside of town. He’ll have a staff of 10 to help participants with their social needs, he said.

He couldn’t hide his eagerness and anticipation of how much being in a new location outside of City Hall would help.

“Looking at the progress of these kids, they will be able to have a place that they feel comfortable with,” he said. “They can build relationships with their case managers; come in and have a conversation and even have some conflict resolution.”

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