24-Hour High School Opens at SLATE

473053205SLATE’s new and unprecedented workforce program have extended services for youth customers after SLATE’s normal closing hours at 5 p.m. Never before have young adults, many of whom are working parents, had an opportunity to attain a High School Diploma and jump start to better jobs with support services available to them 24-hours a day.

To deliver services, SLATE, in partnership with St. Louis Public Schools (SLPS), has opened a virtual high school at its location at 1520 Market Street. This SLPS satellite, called the Workforce High School (WHS), is for young adults, ages 17-21, who have previously dropped out of school. Eligible candidates must be eligible to attend school at SLPS.

Under the program, in addition to high school curriculum and access to teachers, a computer lab, educational resources and technical assistance, young men and women will have 24/7 access to education mentorship and case management services. SLATE will help young people navigate responsibilities at home, school, work, at times dealing with probation and parole, handling doctor visits, and providing daycare for their children.

“There is a gap in services for young people who dropped out of high school. They are in need of a second chance and a different venue to get their high school education,” said Dr. Alice Prince, Manager of SLATE Young Adult Workforce Division. “Many of them are parents, some are working two or three jobs, but they still need a way to get their education. We are meeting them where they are,” she said.

Dr. Prince also said that workers with a High School Diploma or GED have a better chance of landing a better job and live above the minimum wage. She says many young adults, especially those with children, do want to do better for themselves and their families. Once they complete their high school education through WHS, SLATE will continue helping them find better employment and career options.

To operate WHS, SLATE will be using federal funding from its regular budget for youth services, in addition to SLPS funds. So far, 20 young men and women have been enrolled into the program. Dr. Prince said more than 20 young adults are on the waiting list.

“This is the first time that the St. Louis Workforce Development Board (WDB) has opened a high school that is operable 24 hours a day,” Dr. Prince said. “Every youth who dropped out of school, who is willing to go back, deserves an opportunity to complete their education and sometimes this can’t be done during normal business hours, between 9 -5, because their lives aren’t so normal.”

SLATE’s Pilot Program Aims at Helping Inmates Transition from Jail to Jobs

Michael K. Holmes

SLATE Executive Director Michael Holmes speaks at the Prison to Prosperity press conference, September 8, 2015

Until recently, there was no established re-entry program for young offenders in the City of St. Louis that offered jobs and quality training post their release out of the correctional system. Unable to find jobs, young felons return to their distressed communities and go right back to committing crimes and violence.The new program, from Prison to Prosperity, aims to connect inmates, housed at the city’s Medium Security Institution (MSI), to job opportunities and credentialed training while they are incarcerated. Over 12 months, young adults ages 17-24 will get job and financial literacy training, as well as leadership development, community empowerment, conflict mediation and other social services. There is enough funding for 130 inmates.

A press conference that officially launched from Prison to Prosperity, took place on September 8, 2015. Mayor Slay, along with other members of his administration and representatives of social services agencies, gathered in front of the MSI.

“We have been doing re-entry programs in the past,” Slay said. “But this is a new program. We’ve not seen anything like it as long as I can recall here at MSI, or at any other city institutions.”

The city’s Corrections Commissioner Dale Glass, Ranken Technical College President Stan Shoun, SLATE Executive Director Michael K. Holmes, made statements on the elements that make up from Prison to Prosperity.

“This kind of a program gives us an opportunity to divert them from a life of crime, and give them a chance to be productive in a community,“ said Dale Glass.

SLATE is responsible for job development, job readiness and financial literacy training, in partnership with the Fist Financial Credit Union, MERS Goodwill, Better Family Life, and Ranken Technical College. By introducing young inmates to a disciplined learning environment and giving them the job skills, SLATE and partnering agencies believe they will be able to reinforce positive behaviors and decrease the likelihood of youth returning back to jail. Additionally, Ranken has pledged scholarships to participants who go on to attend classes.

To serve inmates, from Prison to Prosperity case manages, facilitators, and Ranken instructors will be working on site at MSI to jump start the learning process and creating a path to a new, constructive, crime-free life.

 “We are hoping that an individual, understanding why they’re in here, will be enthusiastic about the help we’re giving them,” said Michael Holmes, “and will change their life.”

With crime running 13 percent ahead of last year and the city on track to have more than 200 homicides for the first time since 1995, officials are hopeful that from Prison to Prosperity program will help them get the rising crime rate under control.

The story uses material from the article published in the St. Louis American.

SLATE Partners with 1st Financial Credit Union to Financially Empower Youth and Low-Income Populations

Summer Jobs program

Darion, Summer Jobs participant, earned his paycheck while learning construction

In 2014, SLATE partnered with 1st Financial Federal Credit Union in order to provide financial literacy and planning services to youth program participants, including regular funding and special grants, such as YouthBuild, YOLO Second Chance and YOLO Face Forward, and others.

1st Financial has been an invaluable source of free checking and savings accounts, online banking access, direct deposit, and free debit cards as well as comprehensive financial education, all helping to create a culture of long-term planning and goal-setting for unbanked populations of St. Louis City.

Mario Lopez

Mario Lopez at the YouthBuild press conference, April 20, 2015

Mario Lopez, part of SLATE’s newly established YouthBuild program, remembers growing up without a bank account. “Neither of my parents had an account while I grew up. Banks and credit unions were considered a positive place for saving money. But all the money we had seemed to go straight to bills and my Mom felt we weren’t wealthy enough to start saving with an account, ” he said.

High unbanked and underbanked percentages often have a direct influence on the poverty level of a community. Fees to buy money orders for utility bills, cashing checks at convenience stores, and utilizing payday loans are the hallmarks of living unbanked and initiate a cycle that can be very difficult to escape.

Throughout 2015, SLATE expects to serve at least 2,000 St. Louis area youth aged 17 to 23 through summer employment and various programs including YouthBuild. Every one of these participants will receive financial education and accounts through our partnership with 1st Financial.

Mario expresses his gratitude for the opportunities afforded to him by YouthBuild, which helps young men and women earn wages while they learn construction skills, and the partnership between SLATE and 1st Financial. “I am learning how to do flooring, demolition, wiring, and learning the basic skills I’ll need for jobs in construction. Before this program, my future didn’t look too bright…but once I heard about the YouthBuild program I considered it a win/win situation.”

Mario also emphasizes the personal value he places on his account with 1st Financial. “Being able to see what I am saving makes me feel like I am in control and helps me meet my short and long term goals which include continuing my education and start a great career.”

During the summer months of 2015, 1st Financial Credit Union reported a total of 812 checking and savings accounts opened by youth hired through SLATE-funded activities. Additionally, over $115, 000 were deposited into youth-owned checking and close to $11, 000 in savings accounts.

“It makes me proud to know that our young people are saving and make an effort to become financially healthy,” said Alice Prince, SLATE Young Adult Workforce Division Manager. “When young people are getting up going to work every morning, they are less likely to commit crimes and more likely to attend school or a training program.”

SLATE knows about the negative implications and ramifications financial instability can bring to local communities. We also know about a positive impact contributed by financially healthy communities. To help low-income communities gain access to economic prosperity, SLATE plans to include a financial literacy component to all its programs designed for underprivileged populations.