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Urban League Starts Jobs Program In North St. Louis County

Save Our Sons, Urban League, Mike McMillan
Maria Altman | St. Louis Public Radio

The Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis has launched a job training and placement program in north St. Louis County called Save Our Sons. The effort is getting serious corporate support — and a dash of Hollywood.

At a news conference Tuesday, Urban League CEO Michael McMillan announced $1.25 million in corporate donations toward the project:

  • AT&T Missouri: $400,000
  • WellsFargo: $250,000
  • Anheuser-Busch: $200,000
  • Emerson: $200,000
  • Monsanto: $200,000
  • Regions Bank: $20,000
  • Reliance Bank: $10,000

The goal of the program is to train 500 unemployed African-American men from Ferguson and other north St. Louis County communities over the course of the next two years. McMillan said Save Our Sons is a result of conversations with young people following Mike Brown’s death in August 2014.
"We went out onto the street and we went to young people and all of them, to a one, said, 'We need jobs in this community; we need economic opportunity,'" he said.

The one-month training classes are aimed at African-American men who are out of school and out of work. The classes will focus on how to get a job and how to succeed in the workforce. Twenty men are enrolled in the first class, which began Monday.

McMillan said the program is also an extension of St. Louis County WIA program (Workforce Investment Act), which gets state and federal funding. County Executive Steven Stenger said Save Our Sons will have an impact.

"The playing field for opportunity is not and has not been level," Stenger said. "Initiatives like this are needed so young men and women can join the workforce and earn a decent living."

The Urban League is hoping to extend the program into the city of St. Louis and eventually East St. Louis. That effort is getting some help from MalikYoba, an actor, community activist and co-founder of Iconic32, a marketing firm that tries to influence cultural movements for social good. (Yoba currently stars in Fox’s new drama "Empire.")

Yoba is hoping to bring Iconic32 to St. Louis with a facility at 929 N. Spring Ave. that he and McMillan planned to tour on Tuesday.

"What we hope to do with this partnership is be able to create jobs, create entrepreneurs, create sustainability that doesn’t really exist here," Yoba said.

Follow Maria on Twitter: @radioaltman

Maria is the newscast, business and education editor for St. Louis Public Radio.

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