New initiative helping teens from troubled neighborhoods find jobs

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)-- Teens growing up in poverty have to deal with poor academic achievement, violence and much more.

A new initiative by MERS/Goodwill and Emerson works to show them that a tough upbringing doesn't have to mean a hard life. They're helping kids in troubled neighborhoods find jobs.

“I basically do everything for my kids,” said program participant Kaylia Hamilton

Kaylia is a participant in the STL Youth Jobs Initiative Program. The program helps teens from troubled communities receive job training and job placement.

“It is a summer job program that has expanded in the last 6 months or so with some funding from Emerson. They donated to expand it to the Ferguson area,” said Hilary Wagner, VP/Program Services of Mers/Goodwill.

Emerson picked Ferguson because it was close to their heart.

“Late August, early September was when Emerson started saying hey we want to do something with the Ferguson area because of everything that was going on particularly with youth at that point that they wanted to be contributing something to that area because that was their home base,” stated Wagner.

Kaylia applied for the program and is doing exceptionally well.

“It actually helped me get my foot in the door cause I just graduated with my associate`s degree in medical assistance,” she said.

“She worked so hard during her time in that program that the team, her peers, her counterparts, came to me and asked me to hire her into one of our open positions because they saw how strong her work ethic was and how good it was to work with her,” explained Kaylia’s boss, Stacey Wheeler. “They wanted to keep her on permanently.”

Kaylia picked health because of her five-year-old daughter.

“She has cerebral palsy and she goes through physical therapy like once a week. So that`s what motivates me to help other people,” she said.

Kaylia has even bigger dreams now.

“I plan on going back to school with the hospital,” Kaylia said.

As of this summer, the program covers St. Louis City and County. If you know someone who would benefit from it go to

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