Urban League helps young black men find employment with Save Our Sons program

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FERGUSON, Mo. – A person's quality of life is directly affected by their ability to secure gainful employment. The Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis wants to ensure that economically disadvantaged men in the Ferguson community are shown the light in their search for economic empowerment.

If you have the desire and the determination to save yourself, then the Urban League’s Save Our Sons program is the right fit for you.

The Urban League recognizes the call for help coming from African-American males. The employment gap between blacks and whites is huge. In June, white unemployment was just 3.8 percent while the jobless rate for black individuals hit 7.1 percent. Gender disparity is also a factor, according to Jamie Dennis, director of the Save Our Sons program.

“African-American males are three times as likely not to be hired versus our female counterparts, or any other race; that is why Save Our Sons exists,” Dennis said.

In 2014, the Urban League took notice as protestors took to the streets of Ferguson. Demaris Ridgell got involved in 2015.

“Not only do they talk the talk, they walk the walk,” he said. “That’s what made me adamant about finishing out and continuing with the program. It was definitely life changing for me.”

SOS is career readiness training, job coaching, networking to occupational training and employment opportunities.

“We have worked with over 200 different corporate partners. And that’s another great thing about this program. The corporate, the receptor base has really been inviting to us,” Dennis said. “…They really want to see this change happen.”

William Patterson came to the program after graduating from the University of Missouri. Patterson graduated with a History degree and was having difficulty finding a job.

“The networking; that was a big thing. The people they introduce you to. And over the four weeks, you build a bond with your classmates,” he said.

More than 360 men, ages 17 to 50, have come through the program. Some are prison parolees, some are trying to get away from the rough and violent streets; others want to get out of dead end jobs.

On July 26, the Urban League will open its new employment center, built on the site of the burned out QuikTrip gas station. It is now headquarters for SOS and other Urban League services.

“And we’re not just teaching work skills, but we’re teaching life skills so we can affect change in the whole person,” Dennis said.

For more information on Urban League's Save Our Sons program, visit ULstl.com.