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Millsaps Forum to Address Challenge of Youth Economic Mobility and Offer Solutions

by Web on March 21, 2016

There is a huge opportunity for Mississippi to improve the upward mobility of its young people, lifting those at the bottom of the economic ladder, improving the opportunities available to them, while building the state’s economy. 

That’s the message that David Dodson, president of North Carolina nonprofit MDC, will bring to the Millsaps College Community Forum on Thursday, March 31, at 6:30 p.m, in Room 215 of the Gertrude C. Ford Academic Complex on the Millsaps campus in his presentation entitled, “Building an Infrastructure of Opportunity in Mississippi.” The Forum is being co-sponsored by the Mississippi Association of Grantmakers, Millsaps College, and the Mississippi Economic Council. 

Dodson’s talk will feature highlights from MDC’s current State of the South report, taking a deep look at youth mobility in the South and featuring analysis of data from Mississippi, other states, and the region as a whole. The data covered include an overview of K-12 and higher education spending and state-by-state looks at where young people are dropping out of the education-to-career continuum. The presentation also will highlight Southern communities that are working to create an "infrastructure of opportunity."

That infrastructure consists of a clear and deliberate set of pathways and supports that connect youth and young adults to educational credentials and economic opportunity. It requires the involvement of a broad cross-section of the community—employers, government, education systems, community-based organizations, policy makers, civic and neighborhood leaders, philanthropy, and young people themselves.

“It’s harder in the South than in any other region in the nation for someone born at the bottom of the income ladder to make it higher up the ladder as an adult,” Dodson says. “Communities are working to improve educational attainment and build their economies, but they can be more successful if they align that work by creating an infrastructure of opportunity—a clear, coordinated set of pathways that connect youth and youth adults to education, experience, and credentials that match the needs of local employers.”

The State of the South report says that at a time when political gridlock at the state and national level are freezing the pursuit of policies that promote education reform and economic development, change must come at the level where the impact of stagnant economic mobility hits hardest: in communities.

The presentation will highlight Southern communities, large and small, urban and rural and point out innovative ideas for making youth economic mobility part of their education and economic development strategies. 

David Dodson is a graduate of Yale University, where he received a B.A. in Architecture and Urban Policy and master’s degrees in Divinity and in Public-Private Management. He is coauthor of several MDC publications, including An Action Agenda to Spur Economic Success: A Report to the Distressed Areas Task Force of the South Carolina Council on Competitiveness (2009), Disconnected Youth in the Research Triangle Region: An Ominous Problem Hidden in Plain Sight (2008) for the North Carolina GlaxoSmithKline Foundation, and State of the South 2007: Philanthropy as the South's "Passing Gear." He is on the boards of the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, the Public Welfare Foundation, the Center for Law and Social Policy, and Durham Technical Community College.

MDC is a 50-year-old nonprofit that brings together foundations, nonprofits, and leaders from government, business and the grassroots to build equity in the South through courageous conversations and systemic community solutions. It has a long history working with leaders in Mississippi, and currently is working with the CREATE Foundation in Tupelo to help design an industry-funded, tri-county career readiness system. MDC began publishing State of the South reports in 1996 to further its mission of helping communities, organizations, and leaders close the gaps that separate people from opportunity.