Final paychecks mark success of MPLOY program that gave jobs to teens

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The city's program to get teens working and out of harm’s way officially wrapped up Friday.

More than 1,000 kids picked up their final paychecks from Cook Convention Center.

"It feels real good," program participant Antrenisha Tyler said. My last paycheck was real nice. I ain’t never had that much money before in my life,."

Tyler spent six weeks working with children at First Baptist Church - Broad and said she learned a lot.

"Time management, first of all," she said. "I had to get up early in the morning. Like 6 or 7 just to get to work on time.”

The 17-year-old Craigmont High School senior said she would use skills she picked up for the rest of her life, especially when she heads to college in a year.

Parents who showed up to MPLOY's closing program Friday were also happy about the skills their children learned.

Single mom Rachel Granger was even more grateful the city invested $2 million in young teens after many Memphians labeled much of the city’s youth as troubled.

“We keep conversations going about the shootings and death," Granger said. I listen to their feedback, but I also encourage them to not be afraid. They can do whatever they want to, be and do whatever they want to do."

"I think programs like this reinforce where their minds need to be focused as they get older," said Michael Davis, who works with Boy Scouts of Memphis, an MLPOY employer. "Not so much on the streets, on their friends or video games."

More than 6,000 kids applied to take part in MPLOY, but only 1,000 were able to participate.

City officials and families hoped the program expands within the next couple years.

“This program came right on time for a lot of our youth, and a lot of them want difference,” Granger said.

The teens WREG talked to said they hope to make a difference for Memphis in the future.

"It makes me feel proud they trust me as a 17-year-old,” Tyler said.

The teens worked at various job sites for six weeks, and their employment wrapped up two weeks ago.