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'We are changing the community' | East St. Louis non-profit recruits, trains, employs students

R3 Development was formed to empower youth in the Metro East with job opportunities and job skills training

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill — 5 On Your Side's 'A Way Forward' focuses on the organizations in our area and the impact they are making.

This week we highlight an organization called R3 Development.

It's a non-profit that recruits, trains and puts students to work.

The organization was founded in 2015 based on labor force data.

Statistics showed employment rates in East St. Louis for those 16 and older are 25% lower than the national average.

R3 Development formed to empower youth in the Metro East with job opportunities and job skills training.

"The goal is addressing housing and employment in East St. Louis," said Dave Kuntz, the program's executive director. "We look to use the platform of using construction to employ and deploy the youth of the community to learn life skills and job skills."

The hands-on construction experience is meant for high school students, predominantly in East St. Louis.

"We really don’t have areas that students can easily get to and be employed, so our main focus is East St. Louis," Kevin Green, the manager of strategic partnerships and program operations, said. "We don’t really have the resources that other communities have."

Jordan Wade, 18, joined in March. In four months, he already feels the impact.

"The biggest thing I’ve learned is accountability," he said, "The importance is great because the amount of experience we get and exposure we get."

He's been able to produce new projects and create connections.

He will be starting in the SWIC Highway Construction Careers Training Program in August. By Christmas, they expect him to be in a construction trades union.

"It’s a family and family comes first, they’ll serve you and make you a better person," Wade said.

For now, it has about 25 to 30 students in the program.

"We raise all of our own funds through grants, donors, and don’t get any government funding," Kuntz said. 

But it wants to continue growing, expanding the program to more students.

"We can make a bigger impact by providing employment and providing career opportunities, so we need help," Kuntz said.

Donations are a way to keep adding more prospects and build a sturdy future for them.

"We are changing the community, one life at a time," Green said "What we’re doing is changing the trajectory the students may be on."

If you'd like to donate or partner, click on the website here or reach out to Green at kevin@r3development.org.



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