Our community has a significant number of programs aimed at supporting at-risk youth ages 6 to 17, but once at-risk youth leave high school they do not have the support, wisdom, or guidance they need to make the transition into adulthood.
The Penult Leadership program targets young men, primarily African-Americans, between the ages of 18 and 24 from single parent low income homes in disadvantaged communities in Knox County.
According to the 2013 Bureau of Labor and Statistics and Census, the unemployment rate of the targeted audience is 2.5 times higher than the city of Knoxville’s average; the average median household income is 3 times lower with 55% living below the poverty line and 55% living in single parent homes. At the 2014 Save our Son’s Conference, City of Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch shared, “From 2003-2013 African American males between the ages of 18 to 24 committed 40% of murders in Knoxville and 57% of aggravated assaults.
In 2012 an astonishing 90% of the murders with firearms were committed by African American males between the ages of 18 to 24. The vast majority of the murders were black on black crimes.” According to the former Superintendent of Knox County Schools, Dr. James McIntyre, there is a significant achievement gap for African American males where they perform much lower on end of year course exams and the ACT, and they have a lower graduation rate than the system average. As a result, they are at a tremendous disadvantage in the workplace and are often not qualified for jobs that pay a living wage or jobs that have an opportunity for advancement.