About a year ago, Katelind Rohde, Volunteer Center Manager at the United Way of Greater St. Louis, applied for a grant from Points of Light to host AmeriCorps VISTAs to bolster youth engagement outreach. ServiceWorks, the program she was applying to host, was gearing up to be significant.
Today the program, which engages 16-24 year-olds in professional development training and service learning, is off to a powerful start, having engaged over sixty participants in St. Louis since August 2014.
ServiceWorks is a national initiative powered by Citi Foundation, Points of Light, and the Corporation for National and Community Service. Launched in August of 2014 in ten major cities, it is one of the most significant new faces of national service. In St. Louis, ServiceWorks has so far impacted young adults through partnerships with Harris-Stowe State University, YouthBuild STL, Gateway STEM High School, and Florissant Valley and Meramec Community Colleges.
As one of the project managers for ServiceWorks St. Louis, alongside three other AmeriCorps VISTAs – all of us led to the United Way after Katelind’s grant proposal was accepted – I see the program bringing immense benefit to youth in St. Louis.
St. Louis City’s high schools had a four-year graduation rate of 71.26% in 2014, and remain provisionally accredited after a period of being unaccredited. And while unemployment rates are down, for 16- to 24-year-olds they remain too high. Most importantly, many of the young adults we talk to express trepidation about their next steps. They have dreams, but don’t know how to achieve them and are worried they don’t have the experience they need to get started.
We’ll talk more about the specific need for ServiceWorks in St. Louis in our next post, and would love to hear your thoughts on important opportunities for youth in our city. We’ll be blogging here for the next few months, introducing you to our program and the people involved in it. We’ll also be discussing the significance of service, the ideas that guide our work, and issues in St. Louis relevant to both ServiceWorks and the United Way.
We’re excited to start what we hope will be an ongoing conversation about how we can best serve the young adults in our city. While we come from diverse backgrounds, all of us share a passion for ServiceWorks’ mission, and we’re thrilled to be introducing it to St. Louis.
In the meantime, we invite you to learn more about ServiceWorks and keep a lookout for our future blog posts.
Post by Talya Zax. Talya has been serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA at United Way of Greater St. Louis since August 2014. She is a native of Denver, Colorado, and first came to St. Louis in 2010 to attend Washington University in St. Louis.