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Pontiac’s Youth in Focus
During the first year of our 2023 – 2027 Strategic Plan, PCIP will collaborate across the community to enhance opportunities for our youth
Since our founding in 2020, we have engaged with community residents and worked with other local non-profit and civic organizations to understand how we can best support Pontiac’s revitalization.
Our function as a convener is to ensure that we have a shared community vision, facilitate collaborative action towards that vision, promote evidence-based decision-making, and help create long-term sustainability.
Accordingly, our shared community vision for 2023 focuses on improving opportunities and economic mobility for our youth, aged 16 – 24.
Many of us in Pontiac are committed to creating new opportunities for our youth, but we offer different perspectives on how to promote vibrant economic mobility.
Some of us would like to encourage our young folks to pursue careers in high-wage, high-demand STEM fields, while others advocate for providing opportunities in skilled trades — such as in the construction, logistics, or healthcare industries.
These differences in approach are familiar to many of us, and were often highlighted throughout the 20th century, beginning with the Great Debate between Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois in the early 1900s.
While we have consistently had the same objective of charting the best path toward economic mobility for our community, we have differed on how education itself can help us fulfill the promise of the American Dream.
Today, the City of Pontiac is at a crossroads, which gives our community the unique opportunity to merge these two ideologies and create a more holistic approach to economic mobility and advancement.
Throughout most of the 20th century, Pontiac grew as part of the thriving US automotive industry, which attracted folks from around the country and helped fuel the Great Migration of Blacks from the American South who moved northward in search of better lives for their families.
Most of our community was made up of folks who worked in production jobs that paid well and enabled them to afford modest homes and even offered some upward economic mobility.
But with the closure of many of General Motors’ production facilities in our area, it’s time for us to take bold steps toward reshaping our local economy.
As outlined in the Pontiac Moving Forward Plan, we must consider the following as we develop initiatives to help Pontiac grow and sustain itself:
- Recent employment growth and business trends suggest that knowledge-based sectors can contribute to our economic recovery
- We must prepare our students for these new jobs by creating a world-class education system that ensures their success
Our emerging local economy includes organizations such as United Wholesale Mortgage, Amazon, Williams International, AUCH Construction, General Motors Engineering Technology Center, and three different healthcare systems.
However, a skills shortage within Pontiac means that workers currently commute from surrounding areas to fill many of these highly-skilled, highly-paid positions.
The Pontiac School District is engaging in transformational change and developing initiatives to address this pronounced gap in skills, including their collaboration with the National Academy Foundation (NAF) to develop career pathway programs that offer additional elective courses and connect students with employers through meaningful work-based learning experiences and summer internships.
But our schools cannot solve this issue on their own: Our city government, grassroots organizations, higher education partners, and human services agencies have significant roles to play in ensuring our youth have the support they need to achieve success.
PCIP is collaborating with our business, workforce development, and higher education partners to offer innovative certifications and postsecondary education experiences to our youth.
We are also working with our human and social services partners to help minimize housing and food insecurities, which studies suggest adversely impact persistence in school.
To help solidify our shared community vision and learn more about how you can get involved, please join us this Friday, February 17th, for A Call To Action: Improving Summer Youth Opportunities at the PLAT, located in historic downtown Pontiac.
This meeting marks the end of our exploring phase and the beginning of our emerging phase as an organization. This effort will be a heavy lift, and we need all hands on deck to accomplish this monumental task of systems transformation in our community.