STL Youth Jobs was successfully launched this summer, providing 185 St. Louis youth with summer employment. This pilot program included a variety of occupations, including retail, child care, dance instructor and funeral director.

One of the youth employed this summer was 17-year-old Emmanuel Haynes, a 12th grader at Carnahan High School of the Future. Recently, he traveled to Washington, D.C., where he was honored as one of the “Champions of Change” for youth jobs.

This summer, Haynes worked at the Ronald L. Jones Mortuary on Fair Avenue. Haynes spent eight weeks learning the ins and the outs of the funeral business in his role as funeral director.

He admits he was really nervous the first week, but quickly made the transition. The customer service aspect – being there for the clients in their time of need – is what he enjoyed the most.

The White House honored nine individuals and organizations as Youth Jobs “Champions of Change” for answering President Obama’s call to action in helping develop the discipline and skills associated with employment for our youth. As part of the ceremony, Department of Education Under Secretary Martha Kanter moderated a panel of student honorees in which they discussed their experiences in the workplace.

“Nearly everyone let out a gasp when President Barack Obama took the podium,” Haynes said. “We didn’t know he would attend the ceremony until the very last minute.”

Following graduation, Haynes will return to work at the Ronald L. Jones Mortuary on a full-time basis. Next fall, he will begin his studies in mortuary science at St. Louis Community College at Forest Park.

STL Youth Jobs is a program led by the Incarnate Word Foundation and administered by Mers-Goodwill, based on an idea from the Regional Task Force on Youth Violence Prevention. The goal is to provide summer employment to youth ages 16-23 from high-risk neighborhoods in the city of St. Louis. Those high risk neighborhoods include Dutchtown, Gravois Park and Tower Grove East in south city. In North St. Louis, the targeted areas include Baden, Mark Twain, Penrose and O’Fallon.

Nationwide, nearly 16 percent of 18-to-29 year-olds were out of work in September, according to Generation Opportunity, a nonpartisan youth advocacy group. For African Americans, the numbers are higher with nearly 21 percent of young people unemployed.

Emmanuel Haynes, along with several of the 2013 STL Youth Jobs participants will be featured on the upcoming episode of “It’s Your Money withComptroller Darlene Green,” which airs on STL Television.

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