Dr. Mary C. McDonald
It is a well-worn adage that what gets you to the top is the people with whom you surround yourself. This is true for individuals as well as for organizations, institutions, and cities. Memphis is no different in its collective vision of being at the top of those “Best of” lists. Based on current announcements, Memphis is faring well, and getting better.
There is, however, one long-standing area of concern and focus. It has been a challenge in Memphis to ensure an educated workforce for future growth, increased productivity, and as a means of attracting new business and industry to the city. Under-education is particularly true for those with learning disabilities, those with dreams of being part of that workforce, but don’t have the skills or advanced degrees often needed for access. An educated workforce is a worthy goal, and one that should include an education that lifts all citizens since workforce needs are broad, and the skill sets varied. What can be done to ensure productivity for all citizens?
In its typical “can-do” style, The University of Memphis has found a way to marshal its resources and departments to institute a unique program called TigerLIFE (Learning Independence, Fostering Employment & Education).
TigerLIFE is an interdisciplinary approach that provides a college experience, along with job training and workforce development, for students who are educationally challenged, or experience a disability that prevents them from attending a traditional college program.
Maurice Williams, associate director of the University of Memphis Institute on Disabilities, who was a guest on my weekly radio show, Seize the Day, said that, “A magic happens when you get young folks from diverse backgrounds and varying abilities coming together to exchange ideas and learn, most of all to learn that every human has value and abilities. We are amassing the data to paint the picture of how this is successful.”
These students now have the opportunity to join that educated workforce that Memphis seeks to expand, and make productive contributions to the community, as well as the opportunity to experience the global community life on a college campus.
TigerLIFE enjoys the support of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, U of M Interim President Brad Martin; Provost David Rudd; College of Education Dean Donald Wagner; and TigerLIFE Director Chrisann Schiro-Geist.
Lottery Education Scholarships are now available for students in this program. For these students, workforce development within a college experience is now accessible and affordable. Many young people start out with bold dreams. Some, like those with disabilities that often make a college experience impossible, didn’t even have the opportunity to be part of that productive, educated workforce, and live their dreams. Now, they not only are able to continue their education, develop resiliency and talent, they can live boldly and dream boldly so that they too can be a valuable part of the workforce in our community.
TigerLIFE is one of those good things that surround Memphis and help to put it on top, and keep it there.
Contact Dr. Mary C. McDonald, a National Education Consultant, at 574-2956 or visit mcd-partners.com.