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Mayor cites 'Made in Durham' in State of the City speech

Mayor cites 'Made in Durham' in State of the City speech

When Durham Mayor Bill Bell declared poverty reduction a key priority Monday night in his State of the City speech, he singled out the Made in Durham initiative being led by MDC.

“It is important that the program Made in Durham be a success,” the mayor told the City Council, those present, and a web and cable TV audience.

The mayor proposed a plan he called “Reducing Poverty Neighborhood-by-Neighborhood and Year-by-Year,” and said he will begin “calling together community leaders, people in poverty, and organizations to help develop an overall plan and roadmap with benchmarks to meet the challenge.”

He identified the Made in Durham program as important to reaching that goal:

“It is known that only about half of Durham’s youth will complete high school, go to college, and get a job by the time they are 25 years old,” he said. “Moreover, many will struggle in the process, and some will not make it at all. There are now between 4,500 and 6,000 disconnected youth — enough to fill four Durham high schools — who are either at significant risk of dropping out of high school, or who are not pursuing any education, training, or employment.

“All of them have talent and the aspiration for a better life. Together, they represent a source of workforce skills, civic participation, and taxpayer revenue that Durham can ill afford to waste.

"Made in Durham seeks to mobilize Durham's top public, business, and community leaders to help lead an education-to-career system through the creation of a formal partnership.

“The Made in Durham program is important. If our young people are not able to acquire the necessary training for the jobs in our community, they may very well become a part of the jobless or unemployed, which may result in a life of poverty, acquiring all of the other attributes that come with living in poverty.”

The mayor also cited the East Durham Children’s Initiative, a public-private partnership that is working to identify barriers from birth through high school that can prevent people from succeeding.

And he cited the work of the Rev. Mel Wlliams, coordinator of End Poverty Durham (which is housed at MDC), and his work to create the REAL Durham program (Relationships Equipping  Allies and Leaders), which matches low-wealth people and families with volunteers who offer understanding and help finding supports such as financial planning, job training, and healthcare options.

“The mayor, the City Council, the city administration have no monopoly on solutions to reduce poverty in Durham,” Mayor Bell said. “It will take collective action by all in Durham, who have a concern about the level of poverty in Durham.”