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Federal Officials Urge Expansion Of Successful STL Youth Jobs Initiative To Veterans

(via Flickr/U.S. Army Garrison, Miami)

At first glance, veterans of the post 9/11 wars and St. Louis youth in high crime neighborhoods don't have much in common. But two things unite them: both are considered at-risk and both can have a tough time finding jobs.

Bridget McDermott Flood, executive director of Incarnate Word Foundation, is one of the leaders of STL Youth Jobs. The new pilot program is wrapping up its first session providing 200 young people in North and South St. Louis with eight weeks of employment. Incarnate Word Foundation worked with the City of St. Louis and many area businesses to make this summer jobs program a reality.

"The key finding that fascinates me," said Flood, "is that out of the 200 young people, we have had five percent who have dropped out of the program." Flood said they had expected as many as 35 percent to drop out based on findings of other summer youth programs.

Tommy Sowers, Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, is taking a look at the STL Youth Jobs Initiative for " lessons to learn" in connection with unemployment.

Veterans unemployment, said Sowers, has been under the national average for a number of years and recently, the unemployment rate for post 9/11 veterans has also fallen below the national average.

"So the question is how do you do something like this, achieve this kind of success? It's clearly not the federal government alone," Sowers said.

Steve Wahle, Fellowship Program Associate with The Mission Continues, also joined the show to talk about veteran employment.

The Mission Continues provides six month fellowships to veterans so that they can connect with nonprofit organizations in their community.

The biggest challenge for returning veterans, said Wahle, is finding a sense of community, and to that end, he said the fellowship program helps them figure out where they fit in.

St. Louis on the Air provides discussion about issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh.

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