Indiana scrambles to create work opportunities for teens

Benita Johnson
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The recent rash of murders has included the shooting deaths of two teenagers within five days of each other.

One in every four teenager is unemployed. Many don't have the skills they need to get a good paying job.

Eyewitness News takes a look at what the state is doing now and what it could do in the future to keep teens out of violent situations.

Benita Johnson can hardly believe what is going on outside the apartment complex she is helping to rehab at 333 N. Penn.

Five homicides in five days in Marion County alone. Many are pointing a finger toward unemployment. Benita Johnson is not one of them.

"All that other stuff about no job and unemployment, I feel is a cop-out. I didn't have a job for six months when I found this job," she said.

She enrolled in the Fathers and Families program and that led her to BWI, a development and construction management company. With three mouths to feed and bills to pay, she found more than a job. She drilled down on a new career.

But the statistics are staggering. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, one in six Hoosiers in the workforce do not have a high school diploma. To put that in perspective there are three million Hoosiers currently in the workforce. One million of those lack the background and education to reach their full potential.

Governor Mike Pence is hoping his Indiana Career Council which he crafted to create a new high school curriculum will help address that.

"When we do that it will increase hope in high school and I think it will increase our graduation rate and increase outcomes for our kids," said the governor.

State Representative Christina Hale is a member of the Council.

"There are many, many pathways to success and a lot require hard work and study," said Hale.

Gary Hobbs, a businessman in Indianapolis who was appointed by the governor, is well aware of that.

"We've had experience walking into John Marshall and Arlington High School Students as well just to see a few of those young people's faces light up when they see the potential opportunity that was available to me," said Hobbs.

He has certainly done that for Benita Johnson. She has now shown her three children, the oldest of whom is 19 years old, that the answer is not on the streets.

Republican Senator Mike Delph is not a member of the council but he was there at outside the Statehouse when a 16-year-old was shot and killed the night of July 4th.

"We need to restore order to downtown Indianapolis," he said.

Sen. Mike Delph says the current violence is unacceptable.

"This idea that a parent can just drop off a young child without any supervision at night to roam the streets of Indianapolis is completely unacceptable," he added.

Sen. Delph says he is currently researching a parental accountability bill for the upcoming legislative session in January.