You may have heard the name Victoria Young. She is a young, motivated woman determined to bring about great change to the 901. Victoria is a Whitehaven High School Alumni and is currently a teacher at her alma mater. When she isn’t teaching she is running her organization, Visionaries, Inc., where she is the Founder & Executive Director. Not only that, she recently ran for City Council in an effort to promote innovation, community, and passion in Memphis. Victoria is among some of the young and bright citizens that are determined to make Memphis an even better place. This is my conversation with her:
- Joce: When and why did you decide to run for City Council?
- Victoria: I decided to run for City Council because I wanted to challenge the attitude of complacency and a lack of urgency in addressing issues that impeded the growth and development of the city of Memphis, holistically. I had chosen to return to Memphis after graduating from college and graduate school because I still saw a city pregnant with potential in every pocket of the city, if there were fearless leaders with nothing to lose, but everything to gain in the fight to educate ourselves on the issues and develop innovative, strategic, and measurable goals to move the city toward being a city of choice. I believed that with the decision-making power of the Council, there needed to be fresh voices that had the aptitude to fully grasp the issues and be an active contributor to the development of proactive measures to strengthen the city rather than settling for antiquated ideas more often than not producing reactionary measures. Moreover, I aimed to engage the younger vote that has typically felt disenfranchised from the political process in Memphis due to not having any candidates in which they could identify.
- Joce: What do you think are the three most important concerns facing Memphis?
- Economic and Social Capital Development: I believe the way to address the economic and social capital development would be by reconstructing the current PILOT structure to foster and strengthen economic development and attract businesses that will provide career and not merely just “job” opportunities in order to retain and attract talent to Memphis. The payment-in-lieu-of-taxes economic development tax incentives has become a subject of dissension for constituents. While I believe that these incentives are necessary to compete with other cities to bring corporations to our city, I believe the lack of accountability measures and inadequate program requirements have been mediocre, resulting in loss of revenue and human capital investment needed to foster significant and necessary economic development. I would propose that as we move forward, we find consultants with expertise to implement policies that will ensure businesses are most importantly employing an agreed upon percentage of Memphis residents, but also agree to create educational opportunities to foster professional development and continuing education prior to the start of operation in our city. We must be critical in the types of job opportunities that companies receiving these tax incentives offer and create auditing procedures to hold businesses accountable.
- K-12 education and youth advocacy initiatives: In a study conducted by Teachers College at Columbia University, they report an additional 100 high school students would have to graduate to generate equivalent crime-related savings, at a one-time cost of $600,000. However, those additional 100 students would also generate an additional $800,000 per year in human capital and annual productivity. When we consider a startling statistic such as this, how can we ignore the need to research, test, and then implement programs that will target at-risk youth and cultivate the talents that could be used to stimulate our economy rather than take away from it? Though the city no longer funds Shelby County Schools, the city must allocate funds to organizations that have measurable results for successfully helping students while working with these organizations to expand their reach to at-risk students and not just those who have the resources to access these opportunities. I applaud the City of Memphis Youth Services department for current programs, MPLOY and the Memphis Ambassadors Program; however, we must target students at earlier ages from every pocket of this city, because those not involved are those who are at-risk. Our outreach approaches must be improved and innovation must move rise to new heights.
- Blight: I still feel that there is no excuse for the steady deterioration of various communities in our city while others continue to prosper creating a widening gap with inherent economic and social implications.
- Joce: What do you do when you aren’t trying to run the city?
- Victoria: This is such a funny question, because I feel that the past few months have been a whirlwind. One of the caveats about returning home after college is the access to your family and friends. Therefore, when I am not trying to run the city, I am spending time with my loved ones and enjoying many of the great eats or events that Memphis offers from Spindini to Babalu (my absolute favorite) to Love Lounge. During the week, you can find me on Elvis Presley Boulevard at the high school that I believes embodies the grit and grind of our great city, Whitehaven High School (c/o ‘09) where I am an eleventh grade English teacher. You can also find me at the University of Memphis, where I am a current doctoral student in the Leadership and Policy Studies Program in the College of Education. If for some reason you still cannot locate me, then you will probably find me working with high school students through my nonprofit organization, Visionaries, Incorporated, that aims to provide one-on-one, hands-on assistance to students and parents to navigate the college admissions and financial aid process. I am also a member of St. Andrew AME Church where I serve in the music ministry.
- Joce: What inspires you?
- Victoria: Prior to teaching and the birth of my nephew, I would have said that my mother inspires me. While that remains true, I have discovered as an educator that I am inspired by students who have entered my classroom and chosen to overcome the burdens they bear at such early ages to receive an education and by the beaming, innocent eyes of my two-year old nephew who will grow up in this city. It is my obligation to be a servant leader and to pour into them just as much as the great people along my path have poured into me. A life of service inspires me because I know that I can be a catalyst for change that will help them cultivate their own potential.
- Joce: Where do you go from here?
- Victoria: I have learned so much about myself and my commitment to this city since coming back last year and since the invaluable experience of running for City Council. I am committed to doing the work of empowering and engaging communities to be advocates in their communities and their fields. As an educator, I am committed to researching, proposing, and implementing the best practices to ensure high-quality educational opportunities for our students that prepare them from life. I love Memphis and believe that the best way for me to be able to contribute to building this city is to have an unquenchable and relentless thirst for knowledge and improvement.
I choose 901 because 901 chose me. There is no other place with the grit and grind that we possess. There is no other place that embraces me as its very own, regardless of length of stay. There is no other place where one can feel its heartbeat quite like in Memphis. I choose 901 because it is on the brink of the greatness that we have so long anticipated. I choose 901 because it is home.