From a youth symposium at the Memphis Cook Convention Center to street sweeps near Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. is hoping the Be the Dream Weekend helps young people to link past, present and future.
Wharton says for too many young people, King is a “remote, distant topic they hopefully studied in school,” adding, “We’re trying to prick social conscience. Even if you’re only 15, you have a debt to pay for what Dr. King fought and died for. You can’t do anything about doors closed 50, 60 years ago. You can pay it forward.”
The Be the Dream Weekend will feature a Youth Empowerment Symposium for 15- to 19-year-olds from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 18, at the Cook Convention Center, 255 N. Main St. Both participants and volunteers are asked to register at bethedreammemphis.com.
“This is the first (youth symposium),” said James Nelson, director of the Office of Youth Services. “We expect right at 500 students. That’s our goal. If this one’s successful, we’ll do it again next month. And then during spring break, we’ll have a job fair.”
The symposium will include a panel discussion with human resources specialists from FedEx, McDonald’s and Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division, among others. Nelson said the Memphis Ambassador program helps around 450 teens find employment. The symposium is geared toward increasing that number, providing some limited training and a certificate for those who attend – and that bolster resumes.
Wharton says the service projects that are part of the weekend, including Street Sweeps and Blight Fight, will give young people a chance to get out and do some “physical work.”
Eldra White, director of Memphis City Beautiful, said students from Vance Middle School and volunteers will gather Monday, Jan. 20, around 10 a.m., and at 11 a.m. will start working, picking up litter near Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and Vance Avenue. Again, volunteers are asked to register at the website.
Blight Fight, also on Monday, will involve properly boarding and securing homes in the Soulsville neighborhood. Consult the website for details or to volunteer.
A Be the Dream Commemorative Celebration will also be held Monday, and volunteers are needed to help set up that event at the historic Mason Temple, Church of God in Christ, 930 Mason St.
“We are making a point to make it multiethnic, multiracial, multigenerational, multi-everything,” Wharton said.