Summer Jobs May Keep At-Risk Teens Out Of Trouble

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)-- In the wake of a series of shootings that left seventeen people injured over the course of just a few hours, many people are asking what’s being done about the violence.  City leaders have a pilot program working on one answer.  That answer is jobs.

Monday night into Tuesday morning saw a rash of violence that got a lot of attention.  Of the seventeen people shot, twelve were under the age of 25, and five were teenagers.  The bloody night reinforced the belief at City Hall that a focus on helping young people find work will eventually lead to any dent put in the city’s violence problems.  Focus groups of teenagers told them as much.

“This is something that the adults thought was a good idea,” Mayor Francis Slay said, “but we also heard back from the kids, the youth, that hey, this is something we need and we’d like to see.”

Which brings us to Treviel Sanders.  The eighteen year old has a year left in high school.  She lives in the Dutchtown neighborhood, about fifteen blocks from one of the shooting scenes.  She says hearing gunfire is a regular occurrence, along with the worries that come with the shots ringing out.

“If it was someone my age or if it was a robbery, something being stolen.  If someone passed.”

She is working at the Refabulous Boutique not far from her home.  The business is one of several taking part in the STL Youth Jobs program.

“I love this job.  I love getting up.  I love fashion,” Sander said, beaming.

The program, run by the city, solicits private dollars which pay the salaries of young people between the ages of 16 and 23 who are participating.  Right now there are 250 teens employed, but the mayor is looking for something much bigger.

“If this is successful, and we think it will be, we want to expand this far greater in the future.  So 250 I think is a good number to start with.  I’d like to see 5000, 10,000 jobs in the future,” Slay said.

But can it make a dent in crime numbers?  Slay thinks so.

“I don’t think there’s any question that it can.  Not by itself in a vacuum, but yeah, it will be a lot of help,” Slay said.

The employers, who have a vested interest in succeeding in the same rough areas are hopeful.

“It might not help 100%, but it’s hard to find anything that does,” Toni Fox of Refabulous said.

But Sanders says one thing will need to change.

“It is hard to get a job, but some kids my age just don’t try,” she said.

www.stlyouthjobs.org