Summit County Agencies meet to discuss ex-offender services.

Over 20 Summit County agencies were represented at the Akron Urban League’s first annual Career Pathways Summit on Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016. The purpose: to develop a holistic and collaborative approach, across various service providers, to effectively serve ex-offenders, returning citizens and at-risk juveniles.

The Summit arose from a series of focus groups conducted by Akron Urban League President and CEO, Dr. Sadie M. Winlock. “Within my first month of being named President and CEO, I conducted several focus group sessions with foundations, provider agencies and community members. What I found was that a real need existed in the community, particularly around serving our ex-offenders’’, says Winlock.

Collaboration, a key strategic initiative in the Urban League’s 2017-2020 Strategic Plan, was the central theme of the Summit. “During the focus groups, I found that so many agencies were doing great work but that too many were working independently, in their own silos,” says Winlock. Winlock continued, “Our goal is to become the centralized hub of services in Akron, particularly for African-Americans, and we decided that our first step towards that goal would be geared towards ex-offenders.”

Attendees at the Summit participated in small group discussions and explored possible collaborations between the Akron Urban League and the represented agencies. Following the breakout sessions, groups presented their findings to the larger audience. Some suggestions included the creation of an online platform for cross agency collaboration, the creation of shared responsibilities and a joint strategic plan and the creation of a collaborative mentoring program for at-risk juveniles.

Another takeaway from the Summit included the formation of the Career Pathways Steering Committee which will review the Summit’s recommendations and set a path for moving forward. The steering committee, consisting of representatives from 13 agencies, will meet in mid-January 2017. “We would like to have a pilot program that collaboratively serves ex-offenders and juveniles ready to roll out by second quarter 2017,” says Winlock.

For more information on the Career Pathways program and steering committee, contact Toni Johnson, Program Manager, at tjohnson@akronurbanleague.org.