Real Life Lessons in Inclusion & Support

August 3, 2017

by Jill Magruder

On the streets of Bakersfield, California, Kameron saw horrible things he doesn’t even want to see mentioned in print.

At home, he didn’t get along with his stepmother.

He could see his life spinning out of control. He needed a change.

So, Kameron, now 18, moved to a new home in St. Louis with his mother. Here his life has taken a whole new – and positive – direction. The reason, in addition to a better home situation, is community support – not unlike what FH has been trying to accomplish with FH4Inclusion.

Kameron learned about the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis and enrolled in the Save our Sons program. After Michael Brown’s death in 2014, St. Louis businesses and community members united to support the people of Ferguson and the surrounding communities. Save our Sons was one result. The program seeks to help economically disadvantaged men, mostly African-American living in Ferguson and surrounding St. Louis County communities, find jobs. It’s provided to them at no cost.

Not only does Save our Sons teach job preparedness skills like resume writing, elevator-pitch practice and mock interviews, but it provides something more valuable – connections with local businesses and community members who want to help these young men (the Urban League also has services for women). Today Kameron is working at a restaurant job he found through Save our Sons.

On the scheduled final test day to complete his GED (this past May), Kameron spoke to high school seniors at McCluer High School, one of four high schools in the Ferguson-Florissant school district. These seniors were planning on joining the workforce after high school graduation, and a group of us from FH St. Louis visited to offer career advice as the final workshop of FH NextPrep.

I spoke to the students, as did one of my colleagues, but Kameron stole the show. He lived what some of these seniors are living. He was their age. He looked like them. After Kameron told his story, one senior told us how he saw his brother shot and how he vowed to stay off the streets forever.

Hearing this hit me hard. For many of these seniors, this is their reality. Even before graduating high school, they have had searing experiences that I, and likely many of my colleagues, have not had. Yet these seniors are full of ambition. All of them appeared to take our advice seriously and were looking forward to the future. One entrepreneurial senior wants to open a joint car wash and barber shop – so you can get your hair cut while waiting for your car to be washed! Genius.

It’s great that there are resources for young adults like Kameron, and there are others beyond Save our Sons and the Urban League in St. Louis. But, we need even more. At FH, we make it a key aspect of our culture to help each other. We rely on mentors. We build up our confidence as a result of working with great colleagues and clients. We learn how to handle stress in an industry that’s always throwing curveballs. That’s what we need to do in society at large. That’s what these community programs strive to do for young adults looking for a job, or looking for a change in their lives. At FH, we’re looking forward to continuing to be a part of our community’s future, and we challenge others to get involved as well.

Learn more about our work with McCluer High School here.