LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – With the sound of a bell, it was time for Jah’mauri Smith, 16, to turn on his charm. He was participating in a mock scenario where he bumped into a talent recruiter in an elevator. He had one minute to sell his pitch to try to land a meeting with the executive.
This exercise was part of the BMOST or Boys and Men Opportunity Success Team Youth Fellowship.
“They’ve been learning different skills about how to work a room, how to shake hands, how to convey themselves,” Raymond Long said.
Long is the president of the Better Start Foundation. His organization, along with the Urban League of Arkansas, launched this pilot program to help mold the future for teens of color.
“We are trying to equip them with certain leadership skills, career readiness, which is really at the core of the BMOST initiative,” Urban League of Arkansas President & CEO Marquita Little Numan said.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, black people made up only 12.6 percent of the labor force in 2016. In Arkansas, blacks made up 14.9 percent of workers. BMOST hoped the youth fellowship will ultimately help increase that number.
“There was an issue with overall youth leadership and 21st century career readiness and overall just being prepared for career opportunities and actually entering the workforce and be competitive,” Long said.
Smith says through BMOST he felt he was gaining the skills needed to one day land his dream job.
“I really encourage this program because it helps you develop as a person and it helps you overall better your character and who you are as a person,” Smith said.
Besides learning valuable life lessons, the City of Little Rock Community Programs recognized this program as a summer job, so the teens were being paid to be there.
The group of young men will graduate from the fellowship next week.
BMOST will then use their input to shape the future of this program.