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Disconnected youth earn GEDs and technical certificates through Tallahassee’s TEMPO program

A rolled-up diploma with a ribbon tied around lies on a flat surface.
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TEMPO stands for Tallahassee Engaged in Meaningful Productivity for Opportunity.

An extraordinary graduation took place Friday in Tallahassee. Members of the TEMPO program for disconnected youth received their GEDs and technical certificates.

TEMPO stands for Tallahassee Engaged in Meaningful Productivity for Opportunity. It helps connect youth between the ages of 16 and 24 who are not in school or employed with education and job training.

Kimball Thomas, the City of Tallahassee’s director of Housing and Community Services, says the program has served nearly 2,000 youth since it began in 2017.

“Half of the youth had some prior offense with law enforcement prior to the program," Thomas said. "Not one of those youth has reoffended or violated their probation. That is zero percent recidivism.”

Friday evening, 67 youths received their GEDs and 42 received their technical certification. But they’re not the only ones graduating.

In 2020, the TEMPO program launched the Stop-Gap Initiative, which allows family members of participants to attain their GEDs regardless of age. Thomas introduced Robin Washington as an example of that program’s success. Last year, she watched her son graduate.

“She saw Isaac in Cohort 4 finish up last year," Thomas said. "Ms. Washington has completed all her GED requirements. She will be getting her diploma on Friday night, and now her son gets to watch her receive her credentials.”

The TEMPO program is funded by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice and received half a million dollars in the state budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The program has placed nearly 300 disconnected youth in technical schools or college.

“We will move them from generational poverty to generational wealth," Thomas said. "They will be making the kind of funds with respect to what they want to do in technical certifications that they can afford affordable housing here in Tallahassee.”

Nearly 600 families attended the graduation Friday at the Old West Florida Enrichment Center on Lake Bradford Road.

Follow @MargieMenzel

Margie Menzel covers local and state government for WFSU News. She has also worked at the News Service of Florida and Gannett News Service. She earned her B.A. in history at Vanderbilt University and her M.S. in journalism at Florida A&M University.