According to the latest numbers from St. Louis police, 74 people have been killed in the city in the first five months of the year. Lately, some of those victims have been younger, in their teens to mid 20s. Even a 7-year-old girl is fighting for her life after her parents were gunned down in front of her.
These shootings have long-lasting effects, and the goal of Alive and Well STL is to reduce this trauma. One local organization hopes to help through summer jobs.
Growing up in Jennings, Naana Wilson says there were a lot of bad influences, and she's seen firsthand what can happen when teens want money but don't have jobs.
"Growing up around drugs and violence and gang violence and gun violence, you always want an outlet, you don't want to be surrounded by that all your life, to let you know hey, this is not the end," she said. "This is not where it all ends at. You want to be exposed to something positive."
For Naana, that something positive was the SLATE summer jobs program. Entering her second summer there, the 22-year-old works five days a week, educating other young people on managing their money.
"We just teach and tell them what the importance of having a bank account is, saving, what the FDIC is,” she said.
"Basically, to sum it all up, we save lives,” said Dr. Alice Prince. She manages this summer jobs program, which employees about 185 young people ages 16 to 24. It's part of the city-run St. Louis Agency on Training and Employment, known as SLATE.
"We take young people that otherwise wouldn't have anything to do in the summer, and give them the opportunity to earn money, to become empowered,” she explained.
The program teaches real, transferable skills in a variety of industries, from construction to teaching, and finance to IT.
"Sometimes young people just don't know what they want to do," Prince said. "so we help steer them in the right direction, so it's totally their choice."
Program participant Bryanna Williams said, "I had no previous job experience, I didn't know how to do an interview, I didn't have a mentor really at first, so coming in, I feel like it teaches you the life skills you need to continue and prosper as a young adult."
State Representative Bruce Franks recently secured $4 million in federal funding for this program, which will put about 1,000 Missouri young adults to work this summer.
If you're interested in learning more about the summer jobs program for young people, contact SLATE at 314-499-8176. You can also find more information here.