ST. LOUIS, 2017 –On Thursday, April 13, SLATE's 24-hour high school, known as Workforce High School (WHS), will be graduating its first students, two young men who previously dropped out of traditional high schools. The graduation will start at 2 p.m. in the Mayor's Office at City Hall, with Mayor Francis Slay as the keynote speaker. Also in attendance will be:
- Carey Cunningham –Virtual School Coordinator
- Sylvester McClain –Lead Facilitator
- Dr. Ian Roberts –Network Superintendent, SLPS
- Stacey Clay –Deputy Superintendent, SLPS
- Dr. Kelvin Adams –Superintendent, SLPS
- Michael K. Holmes –SLATE Executive Director
- Dr. Alice Prince –SLATE Young Adult Workforce Division Manager, Dean of Student
Success WHS opened at SLATE just a few months earlier, in partnership with the St. Louis Public Schools (SLPS), and already has 20 students working hard toward their High School Diplomas. The School offers young adults 24/7 access to education mentorship, financial empowerment, and holistic case management services they need to complete their high school education and achieve success in life.
With this pilot program, the City of St. Louis created opportunities for those young adults previously unsuccessful with traditional education and who now have life commitments that might stand in the way of improving their lives. Many of these young adults come from challenged neighborhoods that have disproportionate disadvantages like high concentrations of people living in poverty, using or selling drugs, and low educational attainment;al of which are barriers to employment. The idea that they deserve something better is at the heart of WHS.
WHS remains open for working young adults 24/7. Although the curriculum is virtual, attendance is required. Each person is assigned an education tutor that is available 24-hours a day, also serving as a mentor, who works one-on-one with each student in a tutoring setting. Together, they study and overcome life challenges and personal circumstances that otherwise might slow down their education process.
"When you're talking about meeting community where they are, this is what it means," said Dr. Alice Prince, SLATE's Youth Division Manager whose passionate involvement made WHS a reality.
The program worked for Cedric Deshay and Jeavon Gill, the first WHS graduates. Dr. Prince noted both young men had to work hard, sometimes 12 hours a day, and demonstrate extreme courage and focus. "Most of us don't know what it looks like getting up in the morning to gun violence outside our doors. For them to maintain their focus while dealing with really cruel adult issues is amazing. Their courage inspires me and their classmates," Dr. Prince said.
"I am very proud of the young adults who have gotten back on track to graduate high school," Mayor Slay said. "It is as testament to their own fortitude and to dedicated adults investing in their future. Providing a quality education is one of the most important things we can do for our children, and thinking outside the box to provide this new opportunity for young adults to obtain an education will help lead them to a more stable and secure future."
In addition to gaining a High School Diploma, WHS encourages development of leadership and financial literacy for youth. Last year, the two graduates had summer jobs as part of the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund's Summer Jobs Connect program, part of the Citi Foundation's Pathways to Progress initiative. There, they got their first bank accounts, and learned how to manage their money. This year, due to renewed funding, the Summer Jobs Connect grant will ensure that these two new graduates have a summer job in 2017, working as mentors for their fellow students at WHS.
"Opening a safe and affordable bank account, and learning how to manage a new paycheck, are critical steps on the path to long-term success," said Jonathan Mintz, President and CEO, Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund. "The Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund, with the ongoing support and investment of the Citi Foundation, is proud to partner with Mayor Slay and SLATE to support young people in St. Louis. We are especially proud to congratulate the graduates of the Workforce High School, who opened their first bank accounts through Summer Jobs Connect, and know they will continue to succeed this summer."
Dr. Prince added that WHS, financial management, and empowerment courses allow young people to see themselves beyond just a part-time job and to set themselves up for a career they know they deserve. "It's hard to say I am going to be a nurse and to know I have 2-3 years ahead of me, if I can't even complete High School. We give them that. They earn it. They know, once they complete this, there is nothing that can stop them."
SLATE Executive Director, Michael K. Holmes, noted that this program allows young people to move on and have choices: "Some young people are missing high school graduation by just a couple of credit hours. Rather than go through a GED program, we give them those credit hours and let them finish so they can move on." He said he would want this program to be available for other populations. "I am hoping to be able to give them two tracks, either to go to work or to finish higher education."
After graduation and summer employment, Cedric and Jeavon will continue helping others. Cedric already expressed interest in the Air Force;Jeavon said he would want to go to nursing school. Dr. Prince said: "My heart goes out to these young men for entrusting me with this journey. They opened up the door for us to continue saving more lives and that's what it's all about."
St. Louis Agency on Training and Employment
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